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Hawks Cool Down Suns


When the Atlanta Hawks are clicking, the other team usually isn't.

The Phoenix Suns were the latest victim, as they suffered through their third-lowest scoring quarter of the season in a 93-85 loss Friday at the Georgia Dome.

"We take pride in our defense, and we've always been in the top five," said Atlanta coach Lenny Wilkens, whose Hawks have won five of six and are tied for the league lead in scoring defense. "If you want to play for me, you'll play defense."

Tyrone Corbin came off the bench to lead the Hawks with 18 points, hitting 4-of-8 3-pointers. Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith added 15 points apiece for Atlanta.

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  • "I don't like to force anything, and play off the offense," said Corbin, whose shots came mostly off rotations out of double-teams. "I just got a good look at it tonight."

    Tom Gugliotta scored 21 points for the Suns, who lost their second straight and were held almost 13 points below their season average of 97.5 points a game.

    Phoenix, third in the NBA in scoring, managed only 16 points in the third period, and did not score for the first 5:32 of the quarter. It had scored 13 in two previous quarters.

    "I think we executed our offense," said Suns guard Rex Chapman, who added 15 points. "We just didn't execute and finish sharp."

    Atlanta reeled ff 12 points in the meantime, including 3-pointers from Blaylock and Corbin, the latter with 6:45 remaining in the quarter and making it 66-49.

    Phoenix quickened the tempo in the fourth quarter, ripping off seven straight of its own, capping the run with a 3-pointer from George McCloud to make it 81-75 with 8:39 left.

    McCloud nailed another 3-pointer with 6:12 left to make it 83-81, but then the Phoenix offense went cold again, going nearly four minutes without a score.

    The Hawks' half-court offense went south as well, but Blaylock bailed them out with 1:18 left with a leaner over Jason Kidd as the shot clock was about to expire.

    Kidd fouled Blaylock on the play, and the ensuing free throw made it 89-83 and all but sealed the game.

    "We got locked into...a post-up situation," Wilkens said. "We've got to learn to get out of it quicker."

    The Suns led 26-22 after the first quarter, mainly because of 10 quick points from Gugliotta and the fact that Smith, the Hawks' leading scorer, came out slowed by a bout of food poisoning.

    But as they have recently, Atlanta's reserves pulled the Hawks back in it. Backup point guard Anthony Johnson scored seven in the second quarter, and Blaylock stripped Kidd and went the distance for a layup that made it 52-49 with 35.1 seconds left in the half.

    Notes

    • The Hawks signed former Kentucky star Jeff Sheppard to a 10-day contract. It's Sheppard's third stint with the Hawks this season. He replaces forward LaPhonso Ellis, who was placed on the injured list Wednesday due to back spasms.
    • Suns center Luc Longley started after missing three games with a bruised left hip.
    • The Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak against the Suns. It was the only regular-season meeting for the two teams this year.
    • Atlanta played its fourth game of the week, and plays its fifth in seven games Saturday when the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Georgia Dome.

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