The Atlanta Hawks look to snap a six-game road losing streak as they begin a five-game west coast swing against the surprising Phoenix Suns. Atlanta has lost 10 of 11 and six straight away from Philips Arena and once again will be without All-Star forward Paul Millsap.
Sunday's game will feature the first matchup between two of the best rookie coaches in the league in Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek and Atlanta's Mike Budenholzer. Coming into the season, the Suns were mentioned as one of the teams that could end up with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. However, Phoenix currently sits 10 games above .500 at 34-24 and in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have gotten huge seasons from guys like Goran Dragic but have really bought in to the positive situation that has been created by Hornacek.
Atlanta's season has been derailed due to injury but head coach Mike Budenholzer is one of the best stories of the season. He has the Hawks competing every night regardless of who the players might be on the court.
There has been a lot of juggling of lineups for Budenholzer of late. Millsap will miss his fourth straight game on Sunday but he is traveling with the team and could be back before the trip is over. Atlanta could also be close to getting back center Pero Antic who has missed a month due to a stress fracture in his ankle. Antic was recently upgraded to day-to-day and Budenholzer told the AJC that they would check on Antic after Sunday's shootaround to determine his status:
"We'll see how he reacts today and after we go through shootaround tomorrow," Budenholzer said.
Budenholzer will have one new big man at his disposal on Sunday as Mike Muscala is expected to be in uniform and could make his NBA debut against the Suns. Muscala was drafted by the Hawks in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft but had been playing in Spain. Atlanta negotiated his buyout and made his signing official on Thursday.
The game will also feature an interesting matchup at the point guard position. Dragic has been playing at an elite level for the Suns and is averaging a career bests in points (20.6) and field goal percentage (51%). He returned from an ankle injury to score a career-high 40 points in a win over New Orleans on Friday.
Atlanta's Jeff Teague has been playing well himself of late despite his team's struggles. He's averaging 26.2 points per game over his last three after going a month between 20 point outings. Teague has gone 27-50 from the field during that three-game stretch and has given Atlanta a much needed boost offensively.
Defensively however it has been a tough go for the Hawks. Atlanta has topped 100 points in each of their last four games but has just one win to show for it. The Suns are fifth in the league in scoring at 104.9 points per game so the Hawks' defense will once again be put to the test.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, March 2, 8 p.m. ET
Location: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM