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Preview: Suns attempt to rise rather than set in Atlanta against Hawks

Only 34 times have NBA teams had losing streaks of 17 or more games. Will the Suns make it 35?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns @ Atlanta Hawks

When: 5:00 pm (Phoenix time)

Where: State Farm Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM/1400 AM (Spanish)

I truly wish I could be optimistic going into this game but following the Suns’ loss in Cleveland two days ago, optimism is in short supply among Suns fans.

One thing that the Suns will have in their favor is that the Hawks are on the second night of a back-to-back. They had a very intense game against the Pistons yesterday that went down to the wire with Detroit winning 125-122 in the final seconds. I assume that De’Anthony Melton will also get some court time today after being a DNP-CD in Cleveland. Whether he returns to the starting lineup or Igor Kokoskov sticks with new acquisition Tyler Johnson is unknown at this point.

Will any of that make enough of a difference to get a win and avoid extending the Suns’ losing streak to 17?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The Hawks (19-40)

Stats: OffRtg - 105.8 (25th), DefRtg - 112.6 (27th), NetRtg - minus-6.8 (26th)

Probable Starting Lineup: Trae Young, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon

Injury report: Injury report: Kevin Huerter (ankle) - game time decision, Miles Plumlee (knee) - game time decision

On paper, Atlanta is statistically very similar to the Suns - both being near the bottom in team rankings in most categories but one category that they actually lead the NBA is pace. They love to run and get up and down the court quickly, which could create lots of problems for the Suns if they badly lose the battle for rebounds per usual.

The Hawks’ main offensive players — Trae Young (16.9 ppg) and John Collins (19.1 ppg) — just happen to play at positions of weakness (PG and PF) for the Suns. This will again likely create problems for Phoenix as the pair scored a combined 62 points in their previous meeting.

The Hawks are, like the Suns, turnover prone except even more so. This worked to the Suns’ advantage in their previous game but they can’t count on it again.

Team Leaders

Points: John Collins (19.1)

Rebounds: John Collins (9.5)

Assists: Trae Young (7.6)

The Suns (11-49)

Stats: OffRtg - 104.0 (28th), DefRtg - 113.8 (29th), NetRtg - minus 9.9 (29th)

Probable Starting Lineup: Tyler Johnson, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Kelly Oubre Jr., Deandre Ayton

Injury report: T.J. Warren (ankle) - out

In the Suns’ first game against the Hawks this season, they had a 2-point lead at the end of the third quarter, but were outscored 32-24 in the fourth for a 118-112 loss. They had no answer to the Hawks’ second-year power forward, John Collins, who scored 35 points and pulled down 16 rebounds as well. It’s likely that the only thing to slow him down in this time around will be him just having an off night.

The Suns have been routinely out-rebounded this season and the Hawks were no exception as they snagged 15 more rebounds in their first meeting. The Suns’ bench was also outscored by Atlanta 26-12.

What kept that game close until the fourth was 15 steals by the Suns and a total of 24 turnovers by the Hawks (Phoenix only committed 10).

De’Anthony Melton was sidelined by injury in their last meeting and Tyler Johnson was still playing in Miami so Phoenix will be throwing a bit of a different look at Atlanta this time around which might work in their favor. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Richaun Holmes also had a below average offensive outings in that game (11 and 2 points respectively) which they hopefully won’t repeat.

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (24.7)

Rebounds: Deandre Ayton (10.5)

Assists: Devin Booker (6.7)


Can the Suns win this game? Sure they can, but the real question is will they? Will they keep their own turnovers down while capitalizing on those by the Hawks? Will they fight to protect the paint instead of giving up easy buckets inside? Will they play hard and determined basketball for all four quarters?

Those are just some of the questions that need positive answers tonight for the Suns to get a win. As I mentioned earlier, Atlanta will be on the second night of a back-to-back and Phoenix needs to go at them at a very fast pace to attempt to tire them out early.

At this point, I just can’t see the Suns checking off enough of the necessary boxes to get a win.

Prediction: Suns lose 112-102

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