Mission No. 2 accomplished.
Lakers: Defeated. Suns: Disposed.
The Hawks avenged an ugly road loss to the Suns earlier this month with a 107-94 victory Friday night at Philips Arena. It was the second straight victory for the Hawks, who in a span of three days defeated the two teams that started a streak of six losses in seven games to start March.
The Hawks now have a Sunday matchup with the Nets, a team that contributed to that slide with a win in Atlanta last week and is two games up for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We’ve got to see,” Josh Smith said when asked if the Hawks had turned the corner after the slump. “Hopefully we can go up to Brooklyn and continue the streak and keep playing up tempo, keep playing unselfish, keep playing together.
“We just have to focus on getting wins at this point, no matter who they are against. There are a lot of teams that are bunch up and we have to try to create a little separation.”
The Hawks (36-29) entered the game with the same record as the Bulls and Celtics, tied for the fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls played at the Warriors late Friday.
Smith nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The Hawks also got a double-double from Al Horford with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle Korver (16), Devin Harris (15) and DeShawn Stevenson (12) all finished with double-digit scoring.
The Hawks made 12 of 23 3-pointers. The Suns made just 3 of 19 from long range after making 10 of 22 in a 92-87 win in Phoenix March 1. The Hawks completely controlled the tempo of the game with a 29-5 edge in fast-break points.
“Our game strategy coming into this game was very simple after the way we played this team a few weeks back,” coach Larry Drew said. “We really wanted to push the tempo very early to get our energy up. In our last meeting with this team that was one of the glaring problems that we had. … Defensively we did a phenomenal job of defending the 3. Looking back the last time we played this team we didn’t do a good job.”
The Suns (22-44) lost their third straight game – and five out of six – and are now 7-27 on the road. Goran Drajic led the Suns with 21 points. Jermaine O’Neal added 18 points.
The Hawks started Harris at point guard in place of Jeff Teague, who is nursing a sprained left ankle. They never trailed after a Smith jumper with 7:04 remaining in the first quarter made the score 11-10. The Hawks led by as many as 18 points.
“It was a good momentum win of us,” Harris said. “Obviously we wanted to come in and take care of business against a team that beat us on their home floor. We’ll take this one, learn from it, and move on to the next one.”
The Hawks took a 14-point lead, 82-68, into the final quarter. The Hawks, who got baskets by seven different players, forced the Suns into 11 third-quarter turnovers in opening the comfortable cushion. The Suns had 20 turnovers by the end of the third quarter and 24, including 14 steals, for the game.
The Hawks took an 11-point halftime lead, 57-46, as Stevenson drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Hawks opened an 11-point advantage earlier in the second quarter with a 14-4 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Korver. It was the 58th straight game with a 3-pointer for Korver.
Harris finished with 15 first-half points and Smith had 13 to pace the Hawks early effort. The Hawks had a 20-3 fast-break point edge, thanks in large part to Harris. Dragic led the Suns with 15 first-half points as he scored 10 of the Suns’ first 14 points.
The Hawks even got a 3-pointer from Johan Petro, his second of the season, that came with .5 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Hawks were successful early in keeping the momentum of Wednesday’s dramatic and controversial victory over the Lakers. Coach and players did not want to overstate the importance of avenging the losses to the Lakers and Suns – but they were important with 17 games remaining in the regular season.
“I feel like we won three games on that road trip,” Stevenson said of the lengthy road trip that ended with losses against the Lakers, Suns and Nuggets. “Everybody was ready to get to L.A. and the hype of being in L.A. We just felt like we ought to have won (here against the Suns). We came out here, played basketball like we can, locked up and pushed the ball.”