ATLANTA — Guard Goran Dragic used a combination of outside jumpers and drives to the basket to score 19 points, helping the Phoenix Suns defeat the Atlanta Hawks 102-95 Monday and move a step closer to the playoffs.
Dragic scored the last six points of the third quarter to punctuate an 18-9 run and send the Suns to their fourth consecutive victory. The five-year veteran shot 8-for-15 from the field and added six assists.
Phoenix (42-29) is in a tight race with the Dallas Mavericks and the Memphis Grizzlies for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Dragic was one of five players who scored in double figures for Phoenix, joining guard Eric Bledsoe (20), forward Channing Frye (18), forward Markieff Morris (17) and guard Gerald Green (13). Green, who scored 33 against Atlanta in the teams’ first meeting, scored nine during a 10-3, fourth-quarter spurt that put the game away.
Atlanta (31-38) was led by forward Paul Millsap and forward DeMarre Carroll, who each scored 19. Guards Lou Williams and Jeff Teague contributed 17 pieces apiece. It was the most points for Williams since he had 18 against the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 18.
The loss was the third straight for Atlanta, which saw its lead to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference shrink to 2 1/2 games.
Phoenix, which scored 79 points in the first half against the Hawks on March 2, looked as if it had another big night planned. The Suns raced out to an 11-2 lead before Atlanta began to slug its way back into the game, drawing within 25-23 after the first period.
The Hawks tied the game when Williams made a jumper on the first trip down the court in the second period. Atlanta then took its first lead at 27-25 when Williams made two free throws. Phoenix tied the game at 27-27, then went more than three minutes before scoring again, which allowed Atlanta to seize the momentum and take a 34-27 lead on a jumper by Millsap.
Phoenix cut the lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Marcus Morris and Frye, but Atlanta held a 45-42 halftime lead. Williams had 10 points in the half, his first double-digit game since March 2 in Phoenix.
Atlanta built an eight-point lead in the third quarter before Phoenix got its offense cranked up again. After knotting the score at 59-59, the Suns outscored the Hawks 10-2 and sailed to a 77-66 lead after the third.
NOTES: Atlanta G Kyle Korver missed his third consecutive game because of back spasms. The Hawks hope to have Korver back for Wednesday’s road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they may not know until the day of the game. Shelvin Mack again started in place of Korver, and he scored five points. … Also out with injuries for Atlanta were C Al Horford (right pectoral muscle surgery), G John Jenkins (lower back surgery) and F Gustavo Ayon (right shoulder surgery). Phoenix was without C Emeka Okafor (herniated disk) and G Leandro Barbosa (left hand fracture). … Phoenix completes a three-game trip to the East with a game Wednesday at Washington.
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