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Suns Can't Avoid Revenge Game
By: Brad G. Faye, Suns.comATLANTA - For the second straight game, the Suns found themselves matched up against a team with revenge on its mind – this time it was the Atlanta Hawks. Despite 21 points from Goran Dragic and 18 points from Jermaine O'Neal, Phoenix again fell short on the road against a ballclub that it had recently defeated at US Airways Center.
"We just had too many turnovers, and they were making shots off those turnovers," Dragic said following the 107-94 defeat Friday night. "You can't have turnovers like that, especially ones that lead to easy buckets for the other team."
Certain Suns felt that their opposition on this night came in well prepared for the game ahead.
“They know who they are,” Suns guard Kendall Marshall said of the Hawks. “They’ve got guys like Al Horford who have been here a long time, and guys like Kyle Korver who knows that his job is to run off screens and either shoot or know where his bigs are. Those players know who they are, and they stick to their game plan.”
Both Horford and Korver were instrumental in the performance, scoring 16 points apiece, but also making a major impact in the contest were Devin Harris and Josh Smith, who scored 15 and 17 points respectively.
"Guys fought, but you can't win road games when you don't execute the game plan," Suns Head Coach Lindsey Hunter explained. "One gamble here, and another there, and you're down from four points to 11."
When the two teams met earlier this month, it was Phoenix who managed to pull out the 92-87 victory behind Dragic’s 19 points and six assists. It was a different story at Philips Arena on Friday, however, where the Hawks managed to limit Dragic to just six second-half points after the guard had scored 15 in the opening two quarters.
Hunter said it comes as no surprise that teams appear to take it personal when Phoenix defeats them as opposed to just laying down like some would expect. But as Hunter told Suns.com, his focus isn’t on keeping other teams happy by improving their playoff positioning as much as it is on helping his own ballclub improve.
“No matter what our record is, you always have tomorrow,” the head coach said. “And as long as you have the opportunity to do so, you need to keep trying to get better. Sometimes you don’t have tomorrow, and that’s when you worry. But until that’s the case, I’m going to make sure we keep finding ways to improve.”
Aside from the battle that took place at point guard, Friday’s matchup also offered an intriguing matchup at center. Jermaine O’Neal made his first start as a Sun against the Hawks, where he found himself matched up with Hawks All-Star Al Horford.
O’Neal may have won the scoring battle by finishing with 18 points compared to Horford’s 16, but the younger center won the war thanks to the victory. Asked before the game why Horford has often been overlooked when the game’s best big men are discussed, the Suns center said that like real estate, location is everything.
“I think the reason why he’s underrated is they have him playing the five a lot when he’s really a four,” O’Neal explained. “But he’s been very consistent and well deserved of the compliments he does receive.”
AMD RECALLS OLYMPIC GAMES IN ATL
Hard to believe that it’s been more than 16 years since the 1996 Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta. While the games featured one of the most memorable gymnastic performances in history, it is perhaps best remembered for the infamous bombing that took place in Olympic Village.
There in attendance during those games was Suns broadcaster Ann Meyers Drysdale, but unlike recent years in which she has served as a broadcaster for the games, she was there in a different capacity.
“In 1996, a number of past Olympians were invited to be honored in Atlanta, and, having played on the 1976 team, I was one of the women asked to represent that team,” Meyers Drysdale recalled. “Juliene Simpson, who was a captain with me on that team, was my roommate for that 1996 trip, and we had just walked through Olympic Park maybe 10 minutes before it happened.”
The Hall of Famer said she and Simpson were completely unaware that anything had even taken place until Simpson received a phone call from her concerned husband.
“We didn’t have a clue until he called,” Meyers Drysdale said. “It was amazing though to see the next day and for the rest of that trip how everybody came together. There was a lot of USA support for both both men’s and women’s basketball.”