Can the Suns take advantage of yet another opponent without a key player and get another much needed win? So far, they've failed to do so despite many opportunities...Let's hope they can change that with a quality win tonight.

Let's go!

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Who wants it more? (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Tonight the Phoenix Suns will take on the Atlanta Hawks at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia at 5:30 PM MST.

The Phoenix Suns are coming off of a home win against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night to improve their record to 9-14. The Suns have been struggling to find the right mix of players in their starting line-up and off the bench, specifically at the shooting guard position. After Michael Redd's impressive return to an NBA starting line-up while filling in for the injured Jared Dudley, and his first start for the Suns in which he scored an impressive 17 points on Saturday, the Suns will go back to Dudley in the starting lineup but will likely give increased minutes to Redd tonight as well.

The Atlanta Hawks are coming off two straight losses in large part to the absence of a reliable post player since the injuries to both Al Horford and now Jason Collins as well. The Hawks are currently sitting at 16-8 on the season and will be looking to avoid their third straight loss tonight. They have also lost their last three consecutive games against the Suns, and will be looking to snap that losing streak as well.

Read on after the jump for an analysis of what to look for from each team tonight.

Here's a look at the Hawks:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Joe Johnson 24 35.8 7.0 16.0 43.5 2.0 5.1 38.2 2.8 3.2 85.7 1.1 2.9 4.0 3.6 1.8 0.8 0.3 1.5 18.6
Josh Smith 24 33.5 6.2 13.5 46.0 0.1 0.8 16.7 2.4 4.7 51.8 1.8 7.2 9.0 3.2 2.4 1.3 2.1 2.5 15.0
Jeff Teague 24 33.1 5.0 10.3 49.0 0.9 1.9 46.7 2.0 2.7 72.3 0.4 1.8 2.2 5.2 2.3 1.9 0.4 2.0 12.9
Al Horford 11 31.5 5.2 9.4 55.3 0.0 0.1 0.0 2.0 2.7 73.3 2.4 4.6 7.0 2.2 1.5 0.9 1.3 1.9 12.4
Marvin Williams 21 23.8 3.5 7.8 44.5 1.1 2.3 49.0 2.3 3.0 76.2 1.3 4.2 5.6 1.2 0.7 0.7 0.2 1.3 10.4
Tracy McGrady 20 18.9 2.5 5.4 46.7 0.3 0.5 60.0 1.6 2.1 73.8 0.2 3.1 3.3 2.5 1.0 0.3 0.4 0.7 6.9
Zaza Pachulia 24 21.4 2.5 4.5 55.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.3 75.9 1.8 3.8 5.6 1.0 1.4 0.4 0.3 2.4 6.6
Willie Green 24 15.7 2.5 5.8 44.2 0.8 1.8 43.2 0.5 0.6 78.6 0.3 1.2 1.5 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.1 1.1 6.3
Ivan Johnson 20 15.7 2.1 4.7 44.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.0 82.1 1.3 2.7 4.0 0.6 1.2 0.6 0.4 2.2 5.8
Vladimir Radmanovic 23 18.0 1.7 4.4 37.6 1.2 2.9 40.3 0.8 1.0 78.3 0.9 2.3 3.1 1.4 0.8 0.7 0.4 1.2 5.3
Kirk Hinrich 6 18.8 1.7 5.0 33.3 0.7 1.7 40.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 1.5 3.0 1.3 0.5 0.0 1.5 4.0
Jannero Pargo 22 11.3 1.6 4.0 39.8 0.5 1.9 28.6 0.2 0.2 100.0 0.0 1.2 1.2 1.5 0.7 0.2 0.0 1.3 3.9
Jerry Stackhouse 10 5.6 0.8 2.1 38.1 0.2 0.4 50.0 0.9 0.9 100.0 0.3 0.5 0.8 0.6 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 2.7
Jason Collins 13 10.5 0.4 1.2 31.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 75.0 0.5 1.2 1.6 0.2 0.5 0.2 0.1 1.1 1.0


Without Al Horford who is out for at least two more months with a torn left pectoral muscle, and also Jason Collins who sprained his left elbow last Thursday in a loss at home to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Hawks will rely on Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson to carry the load at center. Pachulia is averaging 7.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game since he took Horford's spot in the starting line-up. But their biggest x-factor could be rookie Ivan Johnson who has been very impressive off the bench, even racking up a double-double (14pts, 13rbs) in Saturday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Other than that, the Hawks will mostly rely on the production of star players Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to carry them through tonight's game, as well as contributions from fellow starters Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams. Former Suns' player Joe Johnson is the teams leading scorer, and he's stepped it up even more since Horford's injury...averaging 20.2 pts, 4.7 rbs, and 3.8 asts over the last 13 games.


Key Match-Ups:

Steve Nash vs. Jeff Teague - Nash is still defying all odds as he approaches his 38th birthday tomorrow and continues to play at one of the highest levels of any point guard in the NBA. Nash still leads the league in assists on a team with no real go to scorer other than himself; a testament to his truly remarkable ability and skill. Jeff Teague is no Steve Nash, however he is having a very nice season thus far and is being talked about as a potential candidate for the most improved player award. His stats of 12.9 points, 5.2 assists a game are pretty good, but Nash is simply in a league of his own. (Advantage - Suns)

Grant Hill vs. Joe Johnson - Joe Johnson is one of the best two-guards in the league who still makes Suns fans upset at the thought of what could have been if only he stayed in Phoenix. If Gentry sticks with his usual approach, Grant Hill will likely be asked to guard Joe Johnson again tonight in an attempt to keep him as quiet as possible. Even with Hill's uncanny ability to successfully guard even the best players in the league, it's hard to imagine JJ not having another great game against his former team (Advantage - Hawks)

Channing Frye vs. Josh Smith - This is about as one sided as a match-up can be. Frye has been a disappointment in the starting line-up this season but the Suns really don't have a better option at this point. Josh Smith on the other hand is an athletic scoring and rebounding machine who is also a very effective passer. His only drawback is his tendency to take ill-advised jump-shots at times, but he's been doing much better in that regard this season. (Strong Advantage - Hawks)

Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez vs. Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson - This is one of the more difficult match-ups to predict based on the play of both reserves Lopez and Johnson. One one Hand, Robin can be a force in the paint as we saw on Saturday night when he scored 13 points and closed out the game. However, Lopez has been anything but consistent and could follow up a very good game with a non-existent one. Ivan Johnson on the other hand has been playing great in the minutes he's earned. He's a tough, mean, physical player who has mad the most of his opportunities and even started in the second half over Pachulia in last Saturday's game. Marcin Gortat is obviously better than Zaza Pachulia though, so the Suns should use this to their advantage as often as possible. (Advantage Suns)

Suns' Bench vs. Hawks' Bench - The Suns' bench has the ability to be very good at times, but in other instances they can be downright awful. However, lately the Suns' bench unit has been playing fairly well, especially since Josh Childress has been freed and has found a way to help the team with his athleticism, slashing, and rebounding. Outside of Tracy McGrady and Kirk Hinrich, and maybe Willie Green, the Hawks don't get much contribution from their bench. If Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price, Markieff Morris, Michael Redd, Josh Childress, and/or Hakim Warrick can continue to play well together, they should have an advantage tonight. (Advantage Suns)


Summary - This is a game the Suns can win tonight, but they will have to play at their best in order to do so. Even without Al Horford, the Hawks are still a very good team and one of the contenders in the Eastern Conference. This is the perfect chance for the Suns to seize the opportunity to build on their recent success and continue to work toward getting better. If the Suns can take advantage of their favorable match-ups, hold Joe Johnson to under 20 points on the night, and get increased production from their bench, then I like their chances.


More Game Links:

Suns vs Hawks coverage

Suns vs Hawks preview

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I like Telfair and I don't care who knows. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

We all are very certain that Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat are stirring the flat, decaffeinated soda beverage that are the Phoenix Suns. Without the two, there is a very good chance this team could be 1-22 or 2-21, which could be good as far as draft positioning goes, but would kill us true fans hoping for a reason to watch this team this season.

The Suns have constructed a roster of one year deals in order to free up the Benjamins for this coming off-season. However, the Suns may not have much to spend on players other than Steve Nash. This puts the Suns in a position to make a big transaction and hopefully grab 2-3 players that can make a difference.

But I want to focus on the parts we have now. Who will be holdovers from this 2012 squad next season? That is, who will survive the trade deadline, waivers, or a sacking (as it applies to coaches). Blast off:

Current Suns: Who Will be Around in 2012-13?

With Certainty

  • Marcin Gortat and Steve Nash: No brainer, obvious two choices. The Suns will not deal Nash unless he somehow gets into a war with the FO and asks to leave. But Steve is a pacifist, and everything we have heard from the FO and Alvin Gentry indicate if anything, he may be extended for 2 more years. While Gortat is probably the best trade asset the Suns have, he's finally the big man they've been searching for the past 20+ years. He goes nowhere unless the return is obscenely wonderful.
  • Markieff Morris. He's having a fairly typical season for a rookie. Inconsistency, turnovers, confusion. But the fact the kid has been in the starting lineup as opposed to the D-Leagues like his brother tells us Gentry and the FO like this kid a lot. The fact that he can stay on the floor longer than Earl Clark ever did bodes well. It's also a commentary on how bad Channing Frye is playing and how undersized Hakim Warrick is. Like Gortat, you don't deal what could be a key piece of your core unless the return is unreal. And Morris hasn't been good enough to get an unreal offer, and it would be terribly unwise to toss him in as a sweetener in a smaller deal unless the return is a beast.

Probable

  • Jared Dudley. You don't find many like him in the league. He's smart, he's capable of shooting 40+% from beyond the arc, and he scraps and scraps and never gives up. Last year I would have put him in the "with certainty" category, but I get the feeling that he could be had for the right price. Just one of those guys you want to see in a Purple and Orange forever, but hell, even Dan Majerle got dealt as did Larry Nance. (Just two off the top of my head). Bottom line, it's a business.
  • Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye. The Suns have saved their amnesty choice, so it is possible that Chill or Hak get waived, but let's face it, these guys are getting paid way too much and performing way too poorly for them to get dealt unless the Suns take a bath in the deal. I still think Frye can turn it on and has value, but if his shot isn't falling, who wants a big man who doesn't have an inside game or rebound? (def not New York or Portland)
  • Sebastian Telfair. I like what I've seen from him the past several games. I'd sign him up for two years. There, I said it. He's quick, tenacious, and his shot is improving. A stable coaching staff and consistent playing time could turn this kid into a viable backup PG. I mean he's not going to turn into CP3 or anything, but viable backup, perhaps.

Good as Gone

  • Robin Lopez. No surprise here. Inconsistent play, the ugly double T (prompting AG to utter the "S" word in public), no offer of extension from the org. If he wasn't in his final year, I'd say he'd be buried on the bench still from the latest outburst, but he's probably auditioning for other teams.
  • Shannon Brown. I'm reaching here a bit. The Brown experiment hasn't exactly worked for the Suns. He's averaging below career averages in nearly every category. He's been inconsistent and out of control for most of the season. Nevertheless, he's young, explosive and capable of scoring in bunches. Oh and he's on a one year deal. I could see him being a sweetener in part of a larger deal. May as well get a little something out of him while he's still here.
  • Grant Hill. I'm 89% sure Hill is playing his last season. He's nursing knee injuries and fighting off father time. Like Nash, unless he wants to go, the FO won't ship him out this season, that would be plain disrespectful to the man.What I would love to see is Hill retiring a Sun, then moving up to the FO and restoring some sense and respectability to this franchise.

Gray Areas

  • Michael Redd. The Suns cheap, reclamation project has shown some signs of life. But he's not his old self and may never be again. Unless he all of a sudden starts playing like an All-Star, there won't be interest. And IF it were to happen, it's more likely the Suns would want him around for a playoff push. If there was one.
  • Ronnie Price. He's an excellent defender, a high energy guy, a great locker room guy. Which is why he's valuable. Like consistent scorers, excellent defenders are difficult to find. He's cheap and dedicated, which is probably why the Suns would want to hang on to him. Still, he could be NutraSweet in a larger deal.
  • Alvin Gentry. Everyone has an opinion on Gentry. Is this season his fault? Is he a coach best suited for a bunch of talented veterans? Are his rotation choices poor? How much of the Suns offensive woes can be attributed to Gentry? Are he and the FO getting along? I don't think there is any guarantee Gentry finishes this season as Suns coach and there's certainly no promise for next season. It is this writer's humble opinion that Gentry won't leave money on the table. The same can be said for the FO, who hopefully learned from the Terry Porter debacle.
  • Elston Turner. The "defensive coordinator" of the Suns received plenty of credit at the outset of the season when the Suns ranked high atop the NBA in defense. But what has happened? Have the players tuned him out? Are they just not executing? How much of the Suns defensive trouble can be attributed to Turner?

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Phoenix Suns 99, Atlanta Hawks 90 PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns continue their five-game, seven-day road trip with a visit to Atlanta to face the Hawks. Well, that’s technically not true...

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Still dropping dimes...

This week's NBA Power Rankings are out and as you might expect, the Phoenix Suns are nowhere to be found in the top 5 or the top 20 for that matter. Sitting atop the NBA world is the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder or Indiana Pacers, depending who's Power Rankings you favor and how far below the very top spot you want to look.

Here's what Tom Ziller at SB Nation has for the Suns in his NBA Power Rankings:

NBA Power Rankings: What You Missed Before The Super Bowl - SBNation.com
The Suns have basically no shot at the playoffs, so the Steve Nash trade conversation will only heat up as the weeks wear on. Marcin Gortat, however, is a real keeper, and Michael Redd lives!

Marc Stein in his ESPN NBA Power Rankings shows that nostalgia for what the Suns once where and sadness for what they've come isn't confined to the desert:

NBA Basketball Power Rankings - National Basketball Association - ESPN
Thinkin' about going exclusively to #Nashfacts here to divert our attention from the ongoing disintegration of what used to be the world's most entertaining team. Here's one: Nash recently became the oldest player ever (37 years, 359 days) to post a 30-point, 10-assist game, besting John Havlicek (36 years, 295 days old).

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