After Goran Dragic shook off a nagging injury to help Phoenix end its recent slide, the Suns hope to build on their latest victory while facing an Atlanta Hawks team struggling to overcome its own health issues.
The Suns will look to send the reeling Hawks to their first seven-game road skid in six seasons Sunday night.
Averaging a team-leading 20.6 points, Dragic overcame a sore ankle Friday to score a career-high 40 and help Phoenix (34-24) snap a three-game losing streak with a 116-104 home victory over New Orleans.
"I think everybody knows about Goran Dragic now," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, "or they should."
Dragic, who scored 35 in a 115-112 loss to Houston last Sunday, suffered the injury during a nine-point defeat to Minnesota on Tuesday and sat as the Suns fell 109-86 at Utah the next night. He was a game-time decision against the Pelicans, but ended up going 14 of 21 from the field in almost 42 minutes.
Late in the game the home crowd chanted "M-V-P."
"I never imagined they would cheer that for me," the point guard said. "It is a great feeling, especially with those last four free throws when the whole crowd stood up and cheered. It is something special in my career that I will remember my whole life."
Perhaps more special for the Suns is that their slide is in the past and they've built some momentum after shooting 54.1 percent Friday. However, Phoenix needs to buckle down defensively after its last four opponents averaged 109.5 points on 52.7 percent shooting.
Atlanta (26-31) has averaged 105.3 points in its last four contests and shot 50.0 percent Wednesday, but dropped its second straight and 10th in 11 games, 115-104 at Boston in the opener of a six-game trip.
The Hawks, who haven't dropped seven straight on the road since Jan. 27-Feb. 20, 2008, have lost 17 of 20 at Phoenix.
Though All-Star and leading scorer Paul Millsap (17.6 points per game) is close to returning, he'll miss his fourth consecutive game with a sore knee.
Pero Antic has sat out the last 16 with an ankle injury, but the center also could return on the trip. The Hawks already lost star center Al Horford to a season-ending pectoral injury and his backup Gustavo Ayon to a shoulder problem.
"On this road trip we're hoping some of our guys can get back healthy and come back and contribute," said point guard Jeff Teague, who has averaged 26.7 points on 54.0 percent in three games.
"We know we're a good team, capable of beating any team on any given day. We've just got to come out with full energy and play our basketball."
Atlanta hopes to get help from 6-foot-11 Mike Muscala, its 2013 second-round pick who signed Thursday after his Spanish League contract was bought out. He averaged 14.6 points and led the ACB League in Spain with 7.8 rebounds per game.
"This is an opportunity to get him into the mix," first-year Atlanta coach and Arizona native Mike Budenholzer said. "Include him and try to grow him as a player and part of our group."
Dragic totaled 40 points on 15-of-27 shooting while the Suns split their two meetings with Atlanta last season.
The Associated Press News Service
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