Hawks-Suns Preview

The Associated Press

Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry gave a couple of his veterans the night off, and the result was not pretty.

There wasn't much that looked good about the Atlanta Hawks' most recent performance.

Phoenix goes for its fifth consecutive victory over the Hawks on Wednesday night at US Airways Center, where it closes out its first back-to-back-to-back set of games this season.

After the Suns (12-17) began this three-game stretch Monday with a 102-96 loss at Golden State, Gentry gave 38-year-old Steve Nash and 39-year-old Grant Hill the night off Tuesday. Phoenix responded by shooting a season-low 33.3 percent from the field in a 109-92 loss at Denver.

"(Nash and Hill are) a little run down. I don't feel it's necessary to stick them out there with the possibility of injury,'' said Gentry, whose team has dropped three of four following a season-best three-game win streak.

Opening a stretch of 13 of 16 at home, the Suns go for the season sweep over Atlanta after Nash - who was playing with a sore shoulder - led them to a 99-90 road victory on Feb. 6 with 24 points and 11 assists.

Nash has double-digit assists in six consecutive games for the first time since a 10-game run from Feb. 7-28, 2011.

"He's still one of the better point guards in the league,'' Hawks coach Larry Drew said after the Suns sent his team to a season-high third consecutive loss. "He's very crafty. He gets the ball to the open man. He's still making shots."

Atlanta (18-11) didn't do much of that on Tuesday, hitting a season-worst 34.4 percent from the field while opening its five-game trip with an 86-78 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Hawks had won their previous four road games.

"We just missed a ton of point-blank shots, and we turned the ball over at some crucial times," said Drew, whose team is 0-6 when making less than 41.0 percent. "Obviously you can look at our stats and see that their size and length did affect us, but we gave it our best shot."

Atlanta shot 39.3 percent on Feb. 6, missing 18 of 24 from 3-point range.

The Hawks, though, still have the league's best road scoring defense at 89.1 points per game.

The Suns are averaging 94.0 points while losing five of seven in Phoenix.

However, they've won four straight at home in this series and have dropped just four games to Atlanta in the desert since the start of 1986-87.

Hawks All-Star and leading scorer Joe Johnson, who missed 10 of 17 shots and scored 15 on Tuesday, is averaging just 12.8 points on 31.3 percent shooting during the losing streak in Phoenix, where he played from 2002-05.

He finished with 17 points last week against the Suns, while teammate Josh Smith added a team-high 18.

The Hawks will have to do a better job on the boards on Wednesday after getting outrebounded by 10 the last time these teams met.

Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye each grabbed nine boards in that game in Atlanta, while Hawks center Zaza Pachulia had a team-high eight in 26 foul-plagued minutes.

Gortat is among the league leaders with 17 double-doubles after scoring 10 points with 14 rebounds on Tuesday.

He had 13 points and 12 boards off the bench in the Hawks' last visit, a 105-97 Suns victory on Feb. 23.

Smith's 26 points led Atlanta.

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