Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/2/13
Nba-bucks-hawks-apr
PHOENIX Friday night provided a strong dose of evidence that a couple of those NBA trade-deadline reports supplied by national media sharpies were accurate. Josh Smith really did help the Phoenix Suns finish the season on a roll that may prevent them from landing an extremely early pick in the 2013 draft. By the way, Smith remains employed by the Atlanta Hawks, who lost 92-87 at US Airways Center to became the Suns' third conquest in as many games. Smith, rumored to have been the apple of the Suns' transaction eye, was credited with missing 9 of 11 shots from the field (including all 5 from 3-point range) and committing 5 turnovers. For the record, he's usually quite a bit better than that, but nowhere near good enough for what the Suns who weren't interested in hiring him probably would have had to pony up to keep him almost four months after siphoning off some important assets. It also should be noted that Smith's contributions to the Suns' victory were overshadowed by those from the Phoenix bench. With point guard Goran Dragic missing the last 15-plus minutes after injuring his lower back on a nasty fall, five Suns subs played every second of the fourth quarter. Rookie Kendall Marshall, old-timer Jermaine O'Neal and Wes Johnson joined the Morris twins in enabling Phoenix to hold on and finish its 21st victory in 60 games. "We're finding guys that want to play the right way and just go out and compete," interim head coach Lindsey Hunter said, "and that's what we've been looking for from the beginning." A lot of playing the right way was supplied by Johnson, who since spending most of the season spectating has erupted for 37 points across these last three games. After scoring a deuce in the opening half, Johnson (15 points on 6-of-9 shooting overall) re-entered the game for P.J. Tucker at 8:34 of the third quarter. And when Jared Dudley's spat with teammate Luis Scola sent J.D. to the pine 26 seconds later, Marcus Morris (16 points on 5-of-8 shooting) came on. Hunter, who appeared to co-star in an animated discussion with J.D. during an ensuing time out, said the Dudley-Scola event was "nothing we haven't seen before." But an offense that was pretty efficient (the Suns had shot 39 percent from the field in their previous three home games) registered as a rare sight. Working against a marginally effective Hawks matchup zone, Johnson quickly bagged a couple of 3-pointers. Although he made some early mistakes chasing Atlanta sharpshooter Kyle Korver around a gauntlet of down and cross screens out of "Horns" and box sets, Johnson made a couple of key stops when it mattered in the fourth quarter. "It's very difficult," Johnson said of chasing Korver, "because he's also good at passing ball after coming off those screens." But Johnson had a counter. "It's just my length, my quickness and my speed," he said. Johnson was quick and fast enough on the lock-and-trail tactic that his Suns teammates weren't required to step in, help on Korver and leave an Atlanta post player available at the rim. Johnson's work wasn't lost on Hunter. "I always watch the things that we do defensively, and I think Korver is a great catch-and-shooter off of pin-downs, off of zippers, off of flares, so you can never relax," Hunter said. "Every time Wes relaxed, he burned us, and I kept telling him to play the entire possession out. You cannot relax on him. "At the end, I think he really got into him and chased him off any shots that he had." Johnson's just thankful to be on the floor contributing. "My game's progressing," he said. "I have some momentum and I feel a lot more confident. I'm just going out there, playing hard and having fun." The final result and three-game winning streak may seem fairly jolly for the Suns and their fans, but Friday's game was a little nasty. The second-half skirmishes included a hard foul by Hawks guard Devin Harris on Dragic, a crusty interlude co-starring Ivan Johnson and Suns forward Markieff Morris, a Jeff Teague flagrant foul against Marcus Morris, the Dudley-Scola debate and some macho posturing by O'Neal aimed at, well, pretty much the entire Atlanta team. "At times, things happen like that," Hunter said. "It gets chippy. Our guys didn't back down and as a team, you have to protect one another out there on the court, and I think that we did that. "We can't let others provoke us to stop playing our game. We're basketball players and we have to be that first." Dragic, the best player the Suns have had this season, suffered a similar injury earlier this season. "I think the first one was even worse than this one," he said. "This one hurts more. It's right on a bone. We have four days off without a game, so I will have to do treatment to see if I will go."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Yankees close to trading Aroldis Chapman

WATCH: Dontrelle Willis' great reaction to Giancarlo Stanton home run

Reports: Sale cut up throwback uniforms with knife in protest

WNBA withdraws fines for teams that protested gun violence

Ezekiel Elliott: ‘Evil NEVER prevails’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Orioles, Padres reportedly talking trades of Melvin Upton, Cashner

Le’Veon Bell reportedly missed ‘several’ drug tests

Report: Islanders looking at locations to build new arena

Top five takeaways from this year's NBA Summer League

NCAA rules that hanging out with Drake is violation

WATCH: Justin Bieber arm wrestle Sixers center Joel Embiid

Report: Royals didn't invite Johnny Cueto to White House visit

Solo not taking any chances with Zika virus while in Rio

Rays reportedly demanding Profar in pitching deal with Rangers

Facebook doesn’t know the difference between Liverpool and Arsenal

Report: Teams asked about Wade Davis, asking price very high

Aussie Rules Football player accidentally kicks, breaks own leg

Former Arkansas football assistant trolls Bobby Petrino on social media

Could Clayton Kershaw's injury hinder trade talks?

Spurs strike a new deal with NBA stalwart Manu Ginobli

George makes return to Team USA following leg injury

Why the Clippers shouldn't break up their big three

White Sox pay homage to Bo Jackson’s bat-breaking skills with bobblehead

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

WATCH: Pop & Timmy have a guys' night out

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker