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Youthful Suns cool off Hawks in physical battle

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Two nights after beating the best team in the league on their home floor, the Phoenix Suns beat one of the NBA's hottest teams with a similar formula.

Goran Dragic had 19 points before suffering a bruised tailbone in the third quarter, and Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 27 points and 11 rebounds as the Suns followed Wednesday's win in San Antonio with their third straight victory, a 92-87 decision the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

The Suns have their first three-game winning streak since they won four straight from Dec. 12-19. In between those two streaks, they went 7-24 and did not win back-to-back games. But with regulars like Shannon Brown sitting and Michael Beasley playing just seven minutes, coach Lindsay Hunter is giving a wide berth to his young players and they played roles in the win.

Five Suns -- the Morris twins, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and Jermaine O'Neal played the entire fourth quarter.

"We still have a lot of things to correct, but it was a good win," Hunter said. "We just have to stay on an even keel and see it for what it was. We have won a few games. We are finding guys who want to play the right way and want to get out and compete and that's what we've been looking for."

Marcus Morris had four of Phoenix's 10 3-pointers and 16 points in 27 minutes in a game that got physical in the second half. Johnson continued his strong play with a season-high 15 points and hit three more from beyond the arc. Marshall played the fourth quarter for the injured Dragic.

"We're playing the right way. I am competing, bringing my toughness and I happened to make some shots," Marcus Morris said "I've only been here a short time, but from what I see we're competing and getting things done and that gives you confidence to do the same.

Al Horford had 20 points and Kyle Korver had 17 for the Hawks, who had won four in a row and five straight on the road, including the first three stops on this trip at Milwaukee, Detroit and Utah. They Hawks had won six of their last seven games and had averaged 110 points in the six wins.

But the Suns held Atlanta to 68 points in the first three quarters and closed them out without Dragic.

"Oh boy, this was really a tough game to swallow," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "After playing so well in the first three on this trip, we were just as bad tonight. I told the guys I thought we took a step back ... We reverted back to some bad habits."

Josh Smith missed nine of 11 shots and scored five points in 39 minutes.

"One game and you throw it out," he said. "We were owed one of these games. We can't hang our heads and dwell on it; we have to be able to bounce back from it."

The game got testy in the third quarter. Dragic left the game not long after going airborne and landing on his back after a foul by Atlanta's Devin Harris. Dragic suffered a similar injury to his hip Dec. 26 against the New York Knicks, landing on his hip on the other side.

"I wasn't as high this time, but I landed in a bad spot," Dragic said. "We have four days before we play (against Toronto Tuesday) so I don't think I'll miss games. I'll know more in the morning."

Harris was assessed a technical foul on the play. After a pair of pushing and shoving matches, Hawks guard Jeff Teague hit Marcus Morris in the air while Morris was attempting a breakaway dunk with 35.7 seconds left in the third quarter. Morris hit his head on the floor and Teague was called for a Flagrant 1 foul.

Hawks guard DeShawn Stevenson, who got the start over Harris, suffered a dislocated middle finger on his left hand just seconds into the game and had to leave. But Stevenson popped the finger back into place on his way to the dressing room and returned for the second quarter, hitting a 3-pointer and scoring five points in 12 minutes.

Dragic continued his strong post-All-Star Game play with scoring 10 of his 14 first-half points in the first quarter. Phoenix erased a five-point deficit to take a 21-19 lead on Dragic's 3-pointer with 1:43 left.

Atlanta used a 9-0 run to build a 33-27 lead on a 3-point play by Anthony Tolliver with 6:43 left in the half. But the Suns took over from there, closing the half on a 17-6 run with back-to-back 3-pointers by Marcus Morris in the final 56.5 seconds, giving Phoenix a 44-39 lead at intermission.

The Suns built the lead to as many as 11 in the second half and never relinquished it.

NOTES: In back-to-back overtime wins against Minnesota and San Antonio, the Suns held their two opponents in overtime to seven points and 2-for-18 shooting combined. The Spurs were 0-for-10 in a building where they hadn't lost since mid-November. ... The Suns' O'Neal had 22 points and 13 rebounds against the Spurs. His last game of at least 17 points and 12 rebounds came three years ago -- Feb. 20, 2010. He had 12 points and five boards Friday. ... The Hawks haven't beaten the Suns twice in a season since 1991-92, when Dominique Wilkins (28.1) led the team in scoring. ... On this date in 1998, Wilkins had his sixth of seven 50-point games in his career, scoring 50 against Detroit's "Bad Boys."
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