The Suns might not have to work as hard to record their third straight win over the Hawks and 16th in 18 home matchups Wednesday night.
Steve Nash(notes) made four free throws in the final seven seconds, and was one of six players in double figures during Phoenix’s 118-114 win in Atlanta on Nov. 7. The Hawks, who had won their first six games under first-year coach Larry Drew, got 34 points from Joe Johnson(notes) and 30 from Al Horford(notes) as they nearly overcame an 18-point deficit in the third quarter.
The experience of a high-scoring game might be a faint memory for Atlanta, which has averaged 86.6 points while dropping four of five. The Hawks (34-22) had their worst performance over that stretch Tuesday, shooting 36.6 percent in a 104-80 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I thought our guys took the path of least resistance the whole game,” Drew said. “On offense, we settled, and defensively, we didn’t play with physicality. I just thought we settled, which is starting to be a pattern with us.”
Johnson had 14 points in the third of seven straight road games, and is averaging 11.2 over the last five contests - 8.3 below his team-best mark. Top reserve Jamal Crawford(notes), scoring 15.0 points per game this season, is averaging 6.2 on 30.8 percent shooting over that same span.
“We really have some soul-searching to do as a team,” Horford said.
If there’s some hope for a quick turnaround, it might come against a Suns team that’s given up more than 100 points in three straight games. Phoenix let Dallas shoot 52.4 percent in a 112-106 loss Thursday in the NBA’s final game before the All-Star break.
The loss helped keep the Suns in 10th place in the Western Conference. However, they’re just 2 1/2 games behind Utah for the eighth and final spot.
“We have guys that are not quitters,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “I believe in this team. We will come back after the All-Star break and we will play good basketball and we will find a way to make a run and get in the playoffs.”
Another strong performance from Channing Frye(notes) might help Phoenix (27-27) take another step toward the postseason. The Suns’ big man had 24 against the Mavericks after posting a career-high 31 in a 102-101 win over Utah on Feb. 15.
Frye, however, has averaged 7.5 points in four career starts against the Hawks. Nash, who has scored 12 points or fewer in four of his last five home matchups with Atlanta, is 14 assists shy of 9,000 for his career.
He had 15 in the win over the Hawks earlier this season.
Johnson, who played with Phoenix from 2002-05, has averaged 21.1 points in 11 meetings with his former team. However, he’s managed just 13.0 per game in his last three trips to the U.S. Airways Center.
The Hawks have dropped five of six overall to the Suns and shot 39.5 percent in an 89-80 loss in Phoenix last season.