What: Phoenix Suns (22-52) at Atlanta Hawks (37-36)
When: 4:30PM AZ Time
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports AZ, NBA League Pass. Radio: 98.7FM, 1400AM (Spanish)
What do you focus on as a Suns fan this late in the season? Watching the youngsters is fun, but are you bored? Has Alan Williams’ cold streak got you down? Does watching Tyler Ulis play make you consistently more worried about his ability to stick in the league long-term? I feel all of that.
So here’s something you can focus on tonight: Victory. I get that most every Suns fan in the world has turned their attention to the NCAA Tournament and the NBA Draft, but sometimes a win is the right thing to inject some life into fandom. I think of last January, in a similarly depressing stretch, when a Archie Goodwin buzzer-beater over this same Hawks team gave the Suns an extremely memorable win.
The real reason that we should root for victory tonight is that it’s actually possible. The Suns can’t beat many teams in their current form, but the same could be said of the Atlanta Hawks lately. Someone has to win.
Atlanta has lost its last seven games, including on Sunday against the lottery-leading Nets. They are starting trade deadline throwaway Ersan Ilyasova and rookie Taurean Prince as a result of Thabo Sefolosha’s injury and the team’s trade of Kyle Korver. Another new starter, Tim Hardaway Jr., has had a solid season, but has struggled lately as well.
The Hawks shot 35 percent from the field in their Sunday loss to the Nets, including 19 percent from 3-point land. The starting lineup is actually the last problem on their list, as the bench made only 3 of 19 shots in that game. Someone needs to step up.
Regardless of recent struggle, this team hasn’t much changed. It funnels outward from the duo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard in the paint, while Dennis Schroeder runs things at the point of attack as the only playmaker on the team. If those three are working and the rest of the rotation can hold up whatsoever, that’s a recipe for success. It won’t take much against these Suns.
Devin Booker will not score 70 points again, but he will almost definitely score more than 7. Probably more than 17. Come for that, stay for Jarrell Eddie.
Schroeder will be a handful for Ulis, Booker and Leandro Barbosa all night, as will Millsap for rookie Marquese Chriss. If Chriss struggles, expect Jared Dudley to continue his high minute totals. If the guards struggle, there is much less recourse. It will be a long night.
Luckily, the Suns’ MO for months has been to simply outscore teams. They will have that opportunity against a team whose offense has been its main problem.
Hawks 105, Suns 95