Notebook: Suns 92, Hawks 87



Posted Mar 2, 2013 12:47 AM

By Mike Tulumello, For NBA.com

THE FACTS: There must have been a reason why Wesley Johnson was drafted so high in 2010. Johnson, considered a draft bust the past few years after he went No. 4 overall, suddenly has awoken. On Friday night, he helped lead the lowly Phoenix Suns to a home win over the Atlanta Hawks, 92-87.

The win was the third straight for the Suns (21-39), and Johnson has played a key role in all of them. Against the Hawks, Johnson's sharp shooting helped the Suns open a lead in the third quarter, then he blocked a Kyle Korver 3-point try to help seal the win. Johnson had a season-high 15 points.

The Suns also got a big game from Jermaine O'Neal, who helped slow the sizzling Al Horford (also guarded by Marcin Gortat) while putting up 12 points and five boards. Horford, who had averaged 26.0 points and 13.0 rebounds the previous five games, had 20 and seven rebounds, But he had only nine points through three quarters, when the game mostly was decided.

The Hawks (33-24), who have struggled against the Suns over the years, had their 4-game winning streak broken. The Suns also got a big lift from rookie guard Kendall Marshall, who took over for Goran Dragic when he left after he appeared to have been sent sprawling to the floor by Jeff Teague on a drive to the hoop in the third quarter. Teague drew a technical. But Dragic confided after the game that he didn't think he was fouled, saying, "I went too fast." Dragic led the Suns with 19 points in just 29 minutes. He suffered a back bruise, but because the Suns don't play until Wednesday, he doesn't think he'll miss time.

Marshall, also considered a draft disappointment after he went No. 13 overall last year, played the rest of the way and handled the point with few problems.

The Morris twins also had their best game together so far. They combined for 27 points with Marcus Morris hitting 5-for-8, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers for 16 points. Markieff Morris shot 4-for-11 for 11 points plus six rebounds.

Outside of Horford, the Hawks got 17 points from Korver but only five points and 10 boards, from their other hot player, Josh Smith.

The Hawks DeShawn Stevenson, who started as part of a three-forward lineup, dislocated his finger at the start of the game but managed to return.

QUOTABLE: "Wes Johnson is coming along really well. "And Jermaine was great. We're finding guys who want to play the right way and get out and compete."

-- Suns coach Lindsey Hunter

THE STAT: The Suns bench, not exactly a strength much of this season, outscored the Hawks' reserves 58-34.

TURNING POINT: When Johnson entered the game with game with 8:34 left in the third quarter and the Suns leading 50-45, he proceeded to shoot 5-for-5 in the quarter, including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers for 13 points. The Suns led 72-61 by quarter's end.

QUOTABLE II: "I was definitely frustrated with it."

-- Wes Johnson, referring to his non-playing status for much of the season

QUOTABLE III: "Oh boy, this was ... a tough game to swallow."

--Hawks coach Larry Drew

HOT: The Suns hit 10-for-22 on 3-pointers.

NOT: The Suns' Michael Beasley had zero points and zero rebounds while playing just 7:45.

FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Horford has now scored 20-plus in eight straight for the first time in his career (to get there, he nailed a 3-pointer in the final seconds). "He gets better and better every year," said Hunter. "He can do a lot," said Drew, "He's been getting open, and he's getting shots in rhythm. I've always said he is one of the better pick-and-pop big men in our league."

ROOKIE WATCH: John Jenkins had one point and two rebounds in nearly 10 minutes for the Hawks.

NOTABLE: The Suns are winning games while losing lottery balls. They have won three straight, are 4-3 since the All Star break and now are 8-11 under Hunter. They hadn't won even two in a row since December, when they won four straight. In between these two streaks, they'd gone 7-24.

UP NEXT: For the Hawks, Sunday @ Los Angeles Lakers, Monday @ Denver and Wednesday vs. 76ers. For the Suns, Wednesday vs. Raptors, Friday @ Sacramento and Saturday vs. Rockets.