Suns aim for home win vs. Hawks
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PHOENIX -- The Atlanta Hawks or the Phoenix Suns will take a small step toward overcoming a big deficit when they meet in their first game of the new year Tuesday. The old calendar year best be forgotten.
The Hawks (10-26) enter 2018 with the worst record in the league despite winning three of their past four. They are tied with the Utah Jazz for the worst road record at 3-15 and have lost six straight on the road.
The Suns (14-24) have the worst home record in the league, in part because they lost four of five at home while guard Devin Booker recovered from a left adductor strain that cost him three weeks in early December. They are 6-14 in Phoenix after a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on New Year's Eve.
Both sides have showed signs of progress. The Hawks have received stellar play from guard Dennis Schroder during their current stretch of three wins in four games. He tied a career high with 33 points in a victory over Dallas on Dec. 23 -- he said afterward that Dirk Nowitzki "is kind of slow now, getting older" -- and is averaging 22.5 points and 7.8 assists in the past four.
Schroder had 22 points and five other Hawks scored between 12 and 14 points in a 104-89 victory over Portland on Saturday when the Trail Blazers played without leading scorer Damian Lillard.
"Whenever I see an advantage for me to attack, I try to do that," Schroder said after the Portland game. "You've got to pick your spots and keep them guessing. I'm pretty fast. I've gotten comfortable doing it now. Every time I do it, I try to do it with force."
Schroder logged 33 minutes against the Trail Blazers despite playing with what the team called a quad contusion.
The Hawks also have received a boost from second-year small forward Taurean Prince, who was taken by Utah with the 12th pick of the 2016 draft before being traded to Atlanta two weeks later.
Prince had a career-high 30 points against the Raptors last Friday and has double-doubles in his past two games, the third and fourth of his career, all coming this season. He had a career-high five 3-pointers at Toronto and has made at least one three in 17 straight games.
Booker had 32 points and forward TJ Warren had 28 in the Suns' 123-110 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday. Booker was 8 of 22 from the field, 5 of 10 from 3-point range, but the Sixers sent double teams at him most of the fourth quarter and outscored the Suns by 10 to close it out. Booker had a season-high 46 points the first time Phoenix met Philadelphia this season.
"The last time we played this team, 'Book' went off. They weren't going to let that happen again," Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. "'Book' made the right plays, tried to pass it and play four against three because two guys hit him.
"We're going to need to expect that because he's a great player ... there comes a point where we have to figure out how to score points when we're down in games and I have to put the best offensive guys out there."
Booker was asked about a New Year's resolution.
"To win games, the same resolution as the beginning of the season," he said. "I think we are getting better as the season progresses. We are in a lot more games than we used to be, and we are winning some games. So, just keep building on that we keep getting better. We are moving the right direction, for sure."
The Hawks may have another thing going for them in 2018: Rapper Lil B the Basedgod added them to his list of 10 "blessed teams" on Friday evening. Golden State, Portland and Boston were his first three chosen teams. Most of the Cleveland Cavaliers and James Harden are on his cursed list. Kevin Durant was but is not after signing with the Warriors.
Updated January 1, 2018