Suns-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

Injuries might complicate the Atlanta Hawks' late-season run as they compete for playoff seeding. If their last game was any indication, however, they might be able to cope better than expected.

Friday night's home game against the Phoenix Suns appears to be a good chance for Atlanta to pick up a second straight win and further distance itself from a rough stretch.

The Hawks (35-29) had lost six of seven and their struggles figured to continue with starters Josh Smith and Jeff Teague both sidelined for Wednesday's game against the surging Los Angeles Lakers. Smith (sprained left knee) and Teague (sprained ankle) were both injured in Tuesday's 17-point loss at Miami.

Atlanta, which is tied with Chicago and Boston for the Eastern Conference's fifth-best record, was also without Zaza Pachulia for a sixth straight game (sore Achilles).

Those absences left coach Larry Drew with little choice but to send out his 23rd different starting lineup of the season, but the squad found a way to a 96-92 win. The Hawks got double-digit scoring from six players, and could need a variety of contributions again Friday as Teague and Smith's statuses are uncertain.

"That's the way we have to play," Kyle Korver said. "When we're missing guys, we can't just say, 'You're the next-best guy on the team, you take all the shots.' That's a recipe for disaster."

Neither Smith nor Teague had much luck in a 92-87 loss at Phoenix on March 1. Smith was 2 of 11 for five points and Teague scored six on 3-of-10 shooting.

Korver, who had 17 points in Arizona two weeks ago, scored 15 Wednesday to extend his franchise record for consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer to 57 - also the longest streak in the NBA since Peja Stojakovic hit one in 62 straight contests from Jan. 16-Dec. 10, 2008.

The Suns' season-long struggles haven't lessened any recently, as they've lost four of five and are tied with New Orleans for the Western Conference's worst record.

Phoenix (22-43) showed little sign of life in a 111-81 loss at Houston on Wednesday, scoring only 36 in the second half. It left coach Lindsey Hunter yet again frustrated with a group that figures to have little left to play for besides auditioning for roles on next year's squad.

"That's probably the first time I felt we didn't compete as a unit and that is just unacceptable," Hunter. "It's embarrassing. These are the situations you get put in when you really find out who's going to be with you and who isn't. Nothing is promised for none of us here so our guys have to compete like every day is our last and I didn't see that tonight."

The Suns did see a positive with the return of Jermaine O'Neal, who had missed the previous four games to be with his daughter as she had successful heart surgery earlier in the week. But O'Neal, who was averaging 11.4 points on 57.0 percent shooting with 8.3 rebounds in his previous 12 games before leaving the team, had only six points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.

"I felt a little winded because I only had one practice to get in and I was trying to readjust my mind to coming back to basketball," O'Neal said.

Goran Dragic, who has totaled 19 points in his last two games, scored 19 in the first meeting with the Hawks. He was the only Phoenix starter with more than six points as the reserves scored 58.

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