Phoenix (24-15) at Atlanta (25-13)

  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Jan 15, 2010
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Phoenix Suns have been struggling on the road for more than a month, and recently they’ve displayed an inability to protect leads.

Atlanta might not be the best place to remedy either of those troubles.

In a matchup pitting two of the league’s top offenses, the Suns will try to bounce back from their latest loss Friday night against a Hawks team seeking its fifth win in six games.

For more than a week, Phoenix (24-15) has been getting off to fast starts, only to see its intensity dissipate as the game progresses.

This trend started Jan. 5 at Sacramento, when the Suns led by 20 in the second quarter only to let the Kings rally and tie the score in the fourth. They ultimately pulled out a 113-109 victory.

A similar scenario has occurred in each game since.

The Suns blew all of a 16-point lead in a 118-110 win over Houston on Jan. 6, squandered a 20-point advantage in last Friday’s 109-105 loss to Miami and let a 24-point lead get away before rallying to beat Milwaukee 105-101 on Monday.

Phoenix was again unable to protect a 24-point lead Wednesday at Indiana, and wound up suffering a 122-114 loss.

“It is alarming for us,” Suns forward Grant Hill(notes) said. “We have to figure it out, stay together, and try to improve. The only way you get there is as a unit. We’re good enough to get up big, but we have to get better at managing those leads.”

The Suns have been outscored 129-97 in the second halves of their last two games.

“We’ve got to find some kind of resolve to come away with a win in these situations,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “We gave up 70 points in the second half (Wednesday) and obviously you can’t do that. We’ve got to keep playing and get this worked out. We have to figure out why we have bad stretches. We need to play ourselves out of this situation and I have total confidence we’ll do it.”

Steve Nash(notes) had 20 points and nine assists in 27 minutes Wednesday despite missing the entire second quarter. He got seven stitches in his upper lip after taking an elbow from the Pacers’ Earl Watson(notes).

The loss in Indiana opened a four-game road trip for the Suns, who have dropped eight of nine away from Phoenix since Dec. 1. They are, however, continuing to pile up the points.

Phoenix is averaging 118.0 points in its last three road games and its 106.3 road scoring average leads the league. They may need to light up the scoreboard at least that much against a Hawks team that’s plenty capable of scoring in its own right.

Atlanta (25-13) ranks fourth in the NBA with 108.2 points per game at home, helping produce a 15-4 record at Philips Arena.

The Hawks opened a season-high five-game homestand with Wednesday’s 94-82 victory over Washington, their third straight home win and fourth victory in five games overall. Joe Johnson(notes) scored 24 points and Jamal Crawford(notes) added 22 in a game Atlanta led by as many as 22.

Johnson seems to have put a disappointing stretch behind him, averaging 30.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting in his last two games after averaging 9.5 and shooting 28.0 percent in his previous two.

Johnson, who spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Suns from 2002-05, didn’t have much success against his former team last season. He averaged 13.0 points and shot 22.0 percent as Phoenix swept the two-game series.

Atlanta has lost three straight to Phoenix and nine of the last 11 meetings.

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Friday, Jan 15