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Hawks fight off charge from Suns in 120-112 win

A back-and-forth battle in Atlanta.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Following the All-Star break, the Atlanta Hawks dropped a thriller to the Detroit Pistons but Lloyd Pierce’s team had little time to collect themselves in the aftermath of a close-fought loss. In fact, the Phoenix Suns arrived at State Farm Arena less than 24 hours later and, after an interesting back-and-forth affair, the Hawks avoided a weekend sweep with a 120-112 victory.

After a slow start, the Hawks sprang to life midway through the opening quarter, at least on the offensive end. At one point, Atlanta scored 11 points in a 96-second span and it was the duo of Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore leading the way.

Prince scored 11 points in his first eight minutes of action and, beyond that, the third-year forward also made sound decisions and found cutters to the tune of three assists.

Defense was optional on both sides in the opening frame, however, with the score sitting at 22-22 after only seven minutes of action. The Suns used a 9-1 run to claim the lead late in the quarter but, fittingly, the two teams were knotted at 33-33 after 12 minutes.

The early part of the second quarter was controlled by Phoenix, with an 8-2 run coming out of the gate to take a six-point lead. With that said, the Hawks quickly responded with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 47-47 and, following a quick blip from Phoenix, Atlanta’s best stretch of the half was on the way.

The home team outscored the visitors by a 14-2 margin and Bazemore keyed things with nine points of his own during the spurt. Things stabilized before halftime but that run allowed the Hawks to take a 63-59 lead into the halftime break.

Just before halftime, though, was the best highlight of the first 24 minutes. It came from the mind of Trae Young and, even if it didn’t connect, the rookie point guard had the audacity to try a bounce alley-oop pass — in traffic — during a real, live NBA game.

All told, Atlanta’s offense was strong in the first half. The team didn’t shoot the lights out (47 percent from the floor) but the Hawks took care of the ball (only four turnovers) and grabbed seven offensive rebounds to sustain efficient and effective offense.

The start of the second half was kind of a mess for the Hawks, with the Suns taking control. There was a bright spot in Dewayne Dedmon, however, as the veteran big man contributed two follow-up dunks and a three-pointer to keep Atlanta engaged.

Bazemore also did his best to help Atlanta’s offense, scoring 23 points through three quarters, but the Hawks struggled to 39 percent shooting (and five turnovers) in the third quarter. As a result, the Suns took a one-point advantage to the closing period, placing the Hawks in a perilous spot.

The start of the fourth quarter wasn’t much better, as the Suns used a 9-0 overall run to take an eight-point lead. Atlanta didn’t score for almost four minutes and, despite some level of stabilization, the Hawks trailed by eight midway through the period.

Then, Omari Spellman kick-started a run with five straight points and, when Young canned a long-range offering, the Hawks finished a massive charge to tie the game at 105-105 with 4:03 to play.

Following a timeout, John Collins got to the line and made two free throws to give the Hawks the lead but the work was not done. Collins was called for a (very) questionable charge but, after a stop, Atlanta went back in front on a pair of free throws from Young with 2:56 to play.

From there, the Hawks likely got away with a foul on Devin Booker, allowing Prince the real estate to score in transition and put the team up by five points, even after a missed free throw. Phoenix did score on the next trip (with Booker making two free throws) but Prince got back to the line with 1:45 to play, making 1 of 2 to provide a four-point cushion.

Atlanta generated another stop but Young missed a floater, leaving the door open for Phoenix. Suns rookie Mikal Bridges then missed a (wide) open corner 3 and the Hawks gathered the rebound and called timeout in a fantastic position with a four-point edge and less than a minute to play.

Following the stoppage, Dedmon finished a dunk to secure victory and, after a stop on the other end, the result was all but academic.

The starters functioned well for the Hawks throughout the night and each member of the quintet reached double figures with ease. Bazemore led the way with 23 points, with Collins posting a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds. Prince added 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists, with a strong game from Dedmon (18 points, eight rebounds, six blocks) and plenty of fireworks from Young (23 points, eight assists).

Following an off day (with travel) on Sunday, the Hawks will return to the floor on Monday evening against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Stay tuned.