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Hawks continue to struggle, fall to Phoenix
Suns Hawks Basketball Heal
Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash (13) drives past Atlanta Hawks guard Jannero Pargo (7) in the fourth quarter of Monday's game in Atlanta. The Suns won 99-90. - photo by Associated Press


ATLANTA — Steve Nash scored 24 points and the Phoenix Suns broke open a close game with a 24-6 run to close the third quarter and beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-90 on Monday night.

Nash, whose 38th birthday is Tuesday, had 11 assists and shot 9 of 12 — including each of his four 3-pointers. Channing Frye had 19 points, including a 3-pointer and another basket in the closing minutes to help the Suns stop Atlanta's final comeback attempt.

After trailing by 16 in the second quarter, the Hawks recovered to trail only 60-58 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith in the third period. Nash, who had a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the first half, added another 3 before the shot clock expired to help the Suns launch the decisive run to lead 84-64 entering the final period.

Smith had 18 points, and Johnson had 17.

Nash and the other starters sat out most of the final period before returning after the Hawks cut the lead to 94-83 with less than 4 minutes remaining.

The Suns have won three of four. Meanwhile, the Hawks suffered their third straight loss, all at home, after a 4-1 road trip.

The Hawks are facing a critical shortage of centers. Backup Jason Collins will miss at least two weeks after he sprained his left elbow in Thursday's loss to Memphis. All-Star Al Horford was lost for three months with a torn left pectoral muscle on Jan. 11.

Center Zaza Pachulia was left with little help against the Suns' two 6-foot-11 starters, Frye and Marcin Gortat, and 7-foot backup Robin Lopez. The Hawks moved to a smaller lineup when Pachulia was called for his fourth foul with 8:09 remaining in the third period.

The lack of size was no excuse for the Hawks' inability to contain Nash, who had 17 points in his dominant first half.

The Hawks needed a late surge to avoid trailing by double figures at halftime for the third time in as many games in this homestand. Phoenix had a big first-half lead of 16 at 43-27.

A steal and free throw by Smith helped start Atlanta's 17-9 run to close the half. Johnson sank a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining to cut the Suns' lead to four points. Nash answered by launching a buzzer-beating 3 to give Phoenix a 55-48 lead at the break.

Notes: G Jared Dudley started and had 10 points after missing one game for Phoenix with a thigh bruise. Michael Redd also had 10 points. .. Nash made six of seven shots in the first half, including each of his three 3s. ... Wolf Blitzer of Atlanta-based CNN had a front-row seat. ... Willie Green had 14 points for Atlanta, including 10 in the final period.