The desert is where losing streaks go to die lately, and the Atlanta Hawks are hoping a visit to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday can nip a three-game slide. The Suns are losers of four of the last five and were kind enough to help the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets snap out of skids in the last two home games.
The Hawks were looking like a serious contender in the Eastern Conference until the last two weeks, which saw the team drop six of seven. Five of those setbacks came on the road, including a demoralizing 95-68 loss at the Utah Jazz on Friday, and Atlanta already clinched a losing five-game trip with a 105-100 setback at the Golden State Warriors on Monday. Phoenix is getting some strong individual performances but struggles on the defensive end and was outmuscled underneath in Sunday’s 120-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets. “It’s just maturity,” Suns coach Earl Watson told reporters. “It’s aggressiveness. It’s physicality. Our young guys just didn’t have it. There’s nothing wrong against them. It just takes time for young guys to get stronger in the paint.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Atlanta), FSN Arizona (Phoenix)
ABOUT THE HAWKS (10-8): While Atlanta felt bad enough about itself after losses at Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers to call a player’s only meeting, Monday’s tight setback at Golden State offered some glimpses of improvement. “If they want to talk and hammer some things out, it’s usually a good thing,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. “There comes a point where you have to do it on the court. ... Guys talking and sharing, usually it’s how can we get better. As long as that’s the mindset, things like that are good.” The good comes from the interior, where center Dwight Howard (14 points, 16 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (14 points, 14 boards) each posted a double-double.
ABOUT THE SUNS (5-13): Second-year shooting guard Devin Booker is still trying to find a consistent balance with his offense and followed up a 30-point effort at Washington on Nov. 21 with a pair of 11-point efforts against Orlando and Minnesota. The Kentucky product found the rhythm again with 30 points against Denver on Sunday - the fourth time this season he scored 30 or more. Booker is averaging a team-high 19.5 points but is shooting 41.6 percent from the field and averages as many turnovers (2.5) as assists (2.5).
1. Atlanta PG Dennis Schroder went 10-of-20 from the floor on Monday after going 14-of-45 over the first three games of the road trip.
2. Suns SF Jared Dudley (foot) sat out Sunday and is day-to-day.
3. The teams split the two meetings last season, with each winning at home.
PREDICTION: Hawks 101, Suns 92