The Phoenix Suns will carry a two-game winning streak into the opener of their three-game East Coast road trip on Tuesday against the struggling Atlanta Hawks.
The Suns have won five of their last eight games and have climbed into the playoff picture in the Western Conference, just 1.5 games out of the No. 8 slot. Phoenix beat Atlanta 128-112 when the clubs met in Phoenix on Nov. 14, but the Hawks have won the last five meetings in Atlanta.
Phoenix, fresh from Sunday's 100-92 win over the Charlotte Hornets, has seen an improvement in its defense. Over the last two games the Suns have allowed 94 and 92 points, the first time they've won consecutive games while allowing 94 or fewer since 2015.
Atlanta lost its fourth straight on Sunday, falling 108-86 at Brooklyn. The Hawks had to play without leading scorer Trae Young, who was out with a left hamstring injury. It's the third time this season Atlanta has lost at least four in a row.
Kelly Oubre Jr. has been a matchup problem for the Hawks. He scored a season-high 30 points in the first meeting with Atlanta. On Sunday he became only the fourth player in the NBA this season to have 25 points, 15 rebounds (a career high), three steals and two blocks. Oubre has scored 17-plus in eight straight games.
"Kelly is a guy who plays 40 minutes and you look at him and he doesn't look tired at all," Phoenix coach Monty Williams told reporters. "We don't run a ton of plays for him and yet he ends up with 25 points because he just plays hard and he's learning to play with this group."
Devin Booker, the team's leading scorer, has played well against the Hawks, too. He tallied 27 points and seven assists against the Hawks in the first meeting. Booker averages a team-leading 25.8 points along with 6.5 assists, and is shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 91.4 percent from the line. Booker is coming off a subpar game against Charlotte, when he went 3-for-12 from the floor for 12 points.
Phoenix center Deandre Ayton avoided a scare against the Hornets when he twisted his left ankle after an awkward landing following a foiled lob pass. But Ayton stayed in the game and showed no ill effects.
Atlanta has had trouble competing without Young in the lineup. The point guard leads the team in scoring (28.9 points) and assists (8.4) and has two triple-doubles this season. Young received medical treatment in when the team practiced in Washington on Saturday, but was too sore to play. He could play on Tuesday. The Hawks are 1-3 without Young.
Without Young against the Nets, the Hawks shot only 33 percent from the field and just 25 percent on 12-for-48 shooting on 3-pointers. The bright spot was rookie Cam Reddish, who scored 20 points for only his second double-digit effort in the last 10 games.
"I feel like we struggled to a shoot a little bit early in the game," Reddish said. "That obviously hurt. The energy and effort wasn't where it should have been to start, but I think we just had a bad shooting night from the very beginning."
--Field Level Media