The Phoenix Suns were well on their way to a needed home win when the wheels once again fell off in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks. The game started about as well as it could from the offensive end with the Suns shooting 68 percent in the first half to build a nine point lead.
They extended that lead to 15 in the third but just as in Monday's loss to the Warriors, the Suns gave up a run led by an opposing forward, Josh Smith in this case, and struggled to score in the final quarter.
That 15-point lead for the home team was turned into a 9-point lead for the visiting Hawks before a late Suns surge cut it to three with under 20 seconds to go. A Channing Frye three had a chance to tie the game but rimmed off the front of the iron.
"It's one of those deals where we play good basketball for 35 (or) 38 minutes but it's a 48 minute game," Alvin Gentry said in his press conference.
Grant Hill (18 points, 6 rebounds) did an amazing job shutting down Joe Johnson (6 points, 2-10 shooting) but the athletic and skilled Josh Smith was a beast all over the court. He finished with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks and went 2-3 from three. Willie Green chipped in 20 with 5-8 from three for the Hawks.
Steve Nash had the night off in Denver on Tuesday and looked fresh early but by the end of the game the fourth in five days seemed to catch up to him. Nash had 15 points and 8 assists at half time and finished with 22 and 16 in 39 minutes of play.
In the fourth quarter, the Suns were held to 43 percent shooting with just four of their 22 points coming in the paint. Six fourth quarter turnovers (and 20 for the game) didn't help their cause either.
The Hawks used a zone defense to keep the Suns outside of the paint and Phoenix couldn't make them pay by hitting enough outside shots. They went just 3-12 from three in the second half. When the Suns used the zone, Atlanta was able to knock down their shots.
The Suns now fall to 12-18 and have one day off before heading to L.A. to face the Lakers.