Hawks-Suns Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 28, 2013
Paced by center Al Horford, the Atlanta Hawks are in the midst of their most successful road stretch in more than two years. Coming off a career-high scoring night, Horford looks to help the Hawks to a sixth consecutive road victory Friday night against a Phoenix Suns team that just knocked off the NBA's leading club. Horford scored 16 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and also had 15 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead Atlanta (33-23) to its fourth straight victory Wednesday, 102-91 at Utah. The Hawks are 3-0 on a six-game trip, and they've averaged 106.3 points on 48.7 percent shooting while winning six of seven overall - including all five road contests in that span. Horford has averaged 25.4 points on 68.1 percent shooting and 12.4 boards over those seven games. "I'm in a good rhythm," said Horford, an All-Star in 2010 and 2011. "Most importantly, we're winning and we're playing well as a team." Healthy after a pectoral injury limited him to 14 regular-season and playoff games in 2011-12, Horford is averaging career highs of 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds. His performance in the final period Wednesday helped stymie Utah's attempt at overcoming a 20-point second-half deficit. "He was good," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "We were running plays through him. When the shot wasn't there, he was passing the ball. He got everything within our offense. Guys were doing a good job of finding him. "He's really playing at a high level now - an extremely high level." Horford, who did not face Phoenix last season, has averaged 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last four games against the Suns. Atlanta, which is riding its longest win streak away from home since a six-game run in January 2011, snapped a four-game skid in this series with a 101-99 win at Phoenix last year. Josh Smith had 30 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks in that victory. He's averaged 25.3 points and 9.5 boards in the last four at Phoenix and he has 47 points in the Hawks' last two contests overall. Though the Suns (20-39) are tied for last place in the Western Conference, they'll try for a third consecutive victory after ending San Antonio's 18-game home winning streak with a 105-101 overtime win Wednesday. Jermaine O'Neal had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Goran Dragic scored 13 with 13 assists as Phoenix overcame an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the team with the NBA's best record and win its second straight game in overtime. "For us, we're obviously not in the playoff run, but it's about trying to be a better team," said the 34-year-old O'Neal, who posted his second straight double-double and fourth in seven contests. "Games like these are what build character and put us in the right direction. That's what we're trying to do." Phoenix last won three in a row during its season-high four-game run Dec. 12-19. Dragic is averaging 14.1 points, 6.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.9 free-throw attempts per game, joining LeBron James as the only players to lead their teams in all of those categories. The Suns point guard has posted five of his nine double-doubles this season in his last six games.
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