Atlanta looks to get back on track Monday night when Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns come into Philips Arena for their only trip this season. The Hawks have dropped four straight games to the Suns in the series including a 118-114 loss last season at home when Nash finished with 19 points and 15 assists.
Jeff Teague will draw the assignment on Nash this time around and how he handles the Suns pick and roll will be crucial for the Hawks. According to mySynergySports.com Atlanta's offense has been slightly better than the Suns this season averaging .92 points per possession. Atlanta ranks eighth in the NBA in points per possession and Phoenix checks in at No. 12. The story is similar on defense where the Hawks are No. 7 according to mySynergySports.com while the Suns check in at No. 15.
Even though the Hawks have struggled in their last two games, Ivan Johnson has been a bright spot scoring 24 points and grabbing 22 rebounds in the last two contests. Larry Drew talked about Johnson's contributions of late.
"I started Ivan because he brings the energy. If he keeps providing that, he's going to play more minutes."
Phoenix has won two of its past three games most recently dispatching the Charlotte Bobcats 95-89 on Saturday and got an unexpected contribution from backup center Robin Lopez who scored nine straight points down the stretch to lead the Suns on a 12-2 run. Lopez had combined to score 16 points in his previous seven games.
Phoenix has the size inside with Lopez and Marcin Gortat to cause the Hawks some problems so it will be important for Atlanta to close down dribble penetration where Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith can concentrate on blocking out the Suns big men. That will be a very difficult task if they are constantly forced to rotate over to close off Steve Nash drives.
This game also marks the second return of former Hawks swingman Josh Childress who has appeared in 11 games for the Suns and is averaging 3.5 points per game.