Here is the updated game story of the Hawks’ loss to the Suns Monday, their third straight home defeat.
Apparently, there is no place like the road for the Hawks these days.
After a recently-completed 4-1 road trip, the Hawks dropped their third straight home game Monday night, this one a 99-90 defeat at the hands of the Suns.
The Hawks (16-7, 8-4 home) have now lost to the Grizzlies (by 19), 76ers (11) and Suns (nine). Their four-game homestand ends Wednesday against the Pacers. A road game at the Magic (Friday) and a home game against the Heat (Sunday) are next for the Hawks, who are 4-9 against teams that entered play Monday at .500 or better.
The Hawks entered the game concerned about Suns point guard Steve Nash – and for good reason. Nash scored a game-high 24 points with 11 assists, better than his league-leading 9.9 per game.
“He is still one of the better point guards in the league,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “He’s very crafty. He gets the ball to the open man. He’s still making shots.”
As much as they tried they couldn’t handle the NBA’s two-time MVP, who turns 38 Tuesday.
Much of the burden of stopping Nash fell to Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Implored by Drew to be more aggressive, Teague had a dunk and a one-on-one move past Nash in the first quarter as the Hawks took a three-point lead at 16-13. That would be the highlight.
The Suns built a 16-point lead, 43-27, with a 30-11 run between the first and second quarters. Former Hawk Josh Childress punctuated the run with a dunk on a pass from Sebastian Telfair.
The run came as the Hawks struggled mightily from the field in the second quarter. Their second field goal didn’t come until 7:09 remaining. In all, the Hawks shot 8-for-20 in the quarter and finished the first half shooting 39.5 percent (17-for-43).
Most of the Suns’ points came in the paint. They had 16 points inside in the second quarter after only six in the opening stanza.
The Hawks used a run of their own to cut the lead to four points, 52-48, on a 3-pointer from Joe Johnson. However, they trailed by seven at the intermission when Nash hit a 3-pointer of his own at the buzzer. Nash had 17 first-half points.
“Like I’ve been saying, the continuity of our offense and our inability to stop dribble penetration has been a thorn in our side,” Josh Smith said. “If we correct those two things, nothing can stop us. You saw on those road games we had high assist totals. These last two or three games, it’s been low and the offense has been real stagnant.”
Teague picked up his third foul midway through the second quarter.
The Hawks pulled with two points, 60-58, as Joe Johnson and Smith each scored five points to open the third quarter. They would get no closer.
The Suns ended the third quarter with a 24-6 run, with Nash scoring six points, and their lead was 20, 84-64.
“We didn’t respond well to the runs, particularly in that second quarter,” Drew said. “I just don’t see how we respond as if the game is over. I was hoping we were past that point. It’s a point that we are going to have to get better at. This is the NBA. Teams make runs all the time. … It just seems to knock the wind out of our sails when a team makes a run when there is a lot of basketball left to play.”
The Suns (10-14) won their fourth straight against the Hawks. The teams meet again in Phoenix in nine days. Channing Frye added 19 points for the Suns and Jared Dudley and Michael Redd each finished with 10 points.
The Hawks fell 2.5 games behind the Heat in the Southeast Division. They were led by Smith with 18 points and Johnson with 17 points. The Hawks are 5-8 when Johnson fails to score 20 points. Willie Green added 14 points off the bench.
“We’ve kind of slacked off defensively,” Drew said before the game of the Hawks’ current three-game skid. “The start of the season, the one talk we had with the players was the fact that we had to establish an identity defensively. We’ve kind of gotten away from that a little bit.
“We can’t get in a mindset of coming out and trying to outscore people every night. We have to let our defense generate our offense. We’ve gotten away from it.”
The Hawks made a spirited fourth-quarter run, prompting the Suns to re-insert their starters with an 11-point lead with 3:53 remaining. The Hawks got as close as the final nine-point margin.
Hawks television color analyst, NBA Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins was ill and missed the game ill. He was replaced on the broadcast by another former Hawk, studio analyst Mike Glenn.