The Atlanta Hawks desperately needed a victory as Tuesday evening’s game against the Phoenix Suns approached, simply because the team’s losing streak was reaching maddening heights. After 48 minutes of game time, the shorthanded Hawks escaped with one despite a wildly uninspiring performance, as the Suns left Philips Arena on the wrong end of a 95-91 decision.
In the early going, it looked as if the Hawks would simply cruise to a breezy victory over an inferior opponent. Atlanta used a 14-0 run to claim a 27-12 advantage at the end of the first quarter and the numbers were staggering. Phoenix shot just 19 percent from the floor in the quarter and, with the Hawks shooting 58 percent, the lopsided margin made a great deal of sense.
However, the visitors awakened in the second quarter and the Hawks didn’t immediately answer. Atlanta led by as many as 18 but the Suns flew to a 12-4 run to slash the lead to only eight at 36-28. Later, Phoenix closed the half on an 8-1 run to trail only 47-44 at the halftime break.
From shot selection issues to defensive woes that allowed the Suns to score 32 points, the Hawks were a mess in the second quarter and that squandered what appeared to be a dominant edge. That would continue into the final two quarters.
The Suns would tie the game at 58-58 midway through the third period, completing their comeback from the early 18-point deficit. While Atlanta weathered the storm to some degree to hold on to the advantage, Phoenix (finally) took the lead at 72-71 early in the fourth quarter and the home team was in a big-time fight.
As the Hawks missed 11 (!) consecutive shots between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, the Suns extended the lead. In fact, it was a 10-0 run in total for Phoenix that sent Atlanta into a seven-point deficit but, thankfully, that was the wake-up call that the Hawks needed.
Dennis Schröder connected on back-to-back threes to right the ship at 78-77 with 7:06 left and Taurean Prince continued with 5 straight points to reinstall the home team in the lead. That momentum kept moving in the form of a 17-1 overall run and, when the dust settled, the Hawks led 88-79 with less than four minutes to play.
From there, it was academic, as Phoenix simply did not present enough firepower to make a coherent challenge. Still, it was ultimately a less than satisfying victory for the Hawks given the way things transpired and it will be interesting to see how the team responds moving forward with a quick turnaround on Wednesday in Philadelphia.