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Hot Phoenix Suns open homestand vs. Atlanta Hawks

Mar 21, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker against the Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns return from a successful road trip to open a three-game homestand that begins Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks.

Phoenix went 3-1 on the trip, which concluded Sunday with a 101-97 overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Hawks are 2-3 on their current eight-game road trip after Sunday’s 126-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

This will be the first meeting between the two clubs this season, with a return match scheduled for May 5 in Atlanta. They split two games during the 2019-20 season, each winning on their home court.

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Phoenix forward Devin Booker scored 35 points against Charlotte, including four 3-pointers that lifted him to No. 3 in franchise history. He has 753 treys, passing Leandro Barbosa (751) and trailing only Steve Nash (1,051) and Dan Majerle (800). Booker leads the team in scoring at 25.1 points.

Booker has a unique connection to the one of the Hawks. His father, Melvin Booker, played for Italy’s Olimpia Milano in 2007-08 and was teammates with Atlanta’s Danilo Gallinari. The young Booker, then 12, sometimes played one-on-one against Gallinari.

Deandre Ayton has been hot over the past five games, during which he’s averaged 19.4 points – his season average is 14.8 – with 11.2 rebounds. His streak of making at least two-thirds of his field-goal attempts ended at four games Sunday when made 6 of 11 shots from the floor.

Mikal Bridges had the key defensive stop against the Hornets with 20.4 seconds left in overtime when he successfully contested Devonte’ Graham’s 3-pointer to protect a two-point Phoenix lead.

“A lot of my game is to play defense,” Bridges said. “I just went out and got a stop.”

Suns coach Monty Williams said, “Defensively, his contests are some of the best in the league at his position after a screen. He has a knack for making plays.”

The Hawks were out of sorts against the Nuggets, who were revitalized by the acquisition of three new players at the trade deadline. Atlanta lost its composure a few times early when the team failed to get the benefit of a call.

“Early in the game we got distracted by that and we didn’t make adjustments appropriately and they pretty much controlled the game from start to finish,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Atlanta’s Trae Young said. “It’s disappointing losing the way we did.”

The team was thin again Sunday with the absence of De’Andre Hunter, who missed his second straight game with right knee soreness. The team is taking a cautious approach with Hunter since he returned from missing 23 games following surgery on his right knee. He returned to play in two games on the current road trip, but swelling in the knee prompted McMillan to rest him; his availability for Tuesday is uncertain.

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“We’re trying to get that (soreness) removed before he gets on the floor again,” McMillan said Sunday. “He hasn’t done anything for the last three days.”

The Hawks will be a bit deeper on Tuesday when veteran guard Lou Williams joins the team. He was acquired at the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Rajon Rondo. Williams, who averaged 12.1 points in 42 games for the Clippers this season, grew up in the Atlanta area and played for the Hawks from 2012 to 2014.

–Field Level Media