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Feb 1, 2024 1:13 pm

Healthy Hawks look for consistency in clash vs. Suns

The Atlanta Hawks find themselves as healthy as they’ve been all season heading into Friday’s game against the visiting Phoenix Suns.

It is the first meeting between the clubs this season. The Hawks won both games during the 2022-23 campaign and have claimed the last nine straight decisions against the Suns in Atlanta.

Atlanta got De’Andre Hunter back on Tuesday, the first time he’d played since Dec. 20 because of knee inflammation. His presence was felt, particularly on defense, even though he played only 16 minutes. His availability likely will give the team a boost in the run-up to the All-Star Game.

“He has great habits, in helping and rotating, and has a good feel for where he needs to be,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said. “And he’s 6-8. That versatility is helpful, and he takes pride in it.”

It is uncertain whether Hunter will return to the starting lineup or continue to come off the bench. Atlanta has been getting solid play at forward from Saddiq Bey and Jalen Johnson, who is emerging as a key contributor.

The Hawks won their second straight game on Tuesday with a 138-122 decision versus the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We played well and we need to keep playing well,” Snyder said. “We’re healthy right now. Hunt will get more minutes when he’s more and more comfortable and we integrate him back into the lineup. I like what I saw on defense. I thought we were connected, and it felt good. It felt good to me, and it felt good for the players.”

Guard Trae Young said, “Any team can do it one or two nights in a row. We’ve just got to be consistent with it. Hopefully, we can string together some wins that propel us forward to where we want to go and need to be.”

Atlanta’s defensive effort will be tested by the Suns, who recorded their ninth win in 11 outings with a 136-120 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. The Suns are loaded with offensive weapons like Devin Booker (28.3 points per game) and Kevin Durant (28.4), who collected 33 points and eight assists against the Nets.

Veteran Bradley Beal (17.3) has averaged 22.0 points in 33 career games (32 starts) against the Hawks.

The Suns showed their firepower in the third quarter against Brooklyn, scoring 42 points on 76.2 percent shooting (16-for-21) to put the game away.

“Our starting group has been good in first and third quarters all season,” Phoenix coach Frank Vogel said. “Those guys have a knack for getting it going. We build up a lot of third-quarter leads and force teams to play pressure and chaotic in the fourth. (Against the Nets) we did a good job in the fourth of hanging on and scoring the ball.”

The Suns played without guard Grayson Allen on Wednesday. He left Sunday’s game at Miami with an ankle sprain after playing 13 minutes.

Atlanta is playing the third contest in its six-game homestand, which continues with a back-to-back against Golden State on Saturday.

Phoenix will complete its seven-game road trip on Sunday in Washington.

–Field Level Media

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