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Game Preview: East-Best Atlanta Hawks face punch drunk Phoenix Suns

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There are only two 50-win teams in the NBA and the Phoenix Suns are hosting both of them this week. In fact, the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors are the only NBA teams with more than 45 wins.

The Suns lost to the Warriors (51-12) on Monday, and now must face the Atlanta Hawks (50-14) tonight on another Orange Friday. The Hawks come in on a bit of a downswing, having lost to the Sixers and Nuggets in the past week.

Can the Suns be their third non-playoff loss in a week? What is this, Friday the 13th or something?

Details

  • What: Phoenix Suns vs. Atlanta Hawks
  • Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
  • When: 7:00 PM
  • TV: FoxSports Arizona
  • Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM
suns-hawks-stats


The Hawks

The Hawks two recent losses - to the Sixers and Nuggets - are nothing in context. For one thing, they've got a crazy-big lead on the rest of the field in the East, rendering any one loss fairly meaningless. For another, the Hawks had just beat the surging Cavaliers convincingly, to extend a six-game winning streak that included wins over the Bucks, Mavericks and Rockets. And in between the two losses, they pasted the Kings with 130 points in an offensive showing for the ages.

So, no, the Hawks are not really that "beatable" just because of the Sixers and Nuggets losses. In fact, it's more likely the Hawks forgot to show up against the also-rans than it is the Sixers and Nuggets found their achilles heel.

They entered the season coming off an injury-riddled 38-45 campaign where they barely made the playoffs in the East, sporting two All-Star big men (Al Horford and Paul Millsap), a cast of above-average role playing characters and a second-year coach just off the Popovich tree.

How are they suddenly one of the two best teams in the NBA? How did they put together a season where they now boast FOUR All-Stars in their lineup, including Jeff Teague and sharp-shooter Kyle Korver?

Frankly, by being the Spurs-East. Their coach even has an endearing three-letter nickname (Bud), and he's already started "resting" his stars occasionally, even though they aren't yet old as dirt.

And here are some of their best plays during a league-high 19-game winning streak earlier this year.

However, the Hawks aren't quite the juggernaut that are the Warriors in the West.

The Hawks have their East-best 50-14 record, but "only" the league's 6th best offense and 6th best defense. And since the All-Star break, the Hawks are 14th in the league on offense and 8th on defense.

So I'm saying there's a chance...

Check out more on the Hawks at our SB Nation brother site Peachtree Hoops

The Suns

You know all about the Suns. Check out Bright Side for tons of content, including the 'Family Affair' and the younguns and even a podcast in which I almost but didn't quite want to slit my Suns-fan wrists at the end of 45 minutes of tough talk on this bumpy season in the Valley.

I'll throw out that, while Jeff Teague made the All-Star game this year, another potential late-add to the East All-Star list very likely won't play for the Suns tonight in what could have been a show-me game for Brandon Knight against Teague. He was on crutches this week and was doubtful for tonight even days ago.

But hey, that means more Archie and T.J.!

The Lineups

suns-hawks-lineups

Out on a limb

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that coach Hornacek is going to stop swapping bench players for once and just play Thornton, Warren and Goodwin as the subs on the wings rather than Green.

I really like the "big" lineup of Keef, Mook/P.J. and Warren lately, assuming they can hit their shots and defend like they did the other night. Hornacek is trying to find ways to play Warren without shutting down Mook or P.J., and putting Warren at shooting guard is the latest version of it.

Prediction

This is a tough one. The odds are, for sure, that the Suns are likely to lose. However, I don't think the Hawks are as good as their record or that the Suns are as bad as theirs.

The game will be close.

Let's say, Suns by 5 as they find their three-point shooting touch again.