March 12, 2015

Outside of two lengthy winning streaks, the Atlanta Hawks have been up and down this season.

The Phoenix Suns have been trying to get up since late December.

The Hawks look to end their struggles away from home Saturday night when they face the injury depleted Suns, who are trying to shake off their worst stretch in nearly four decades.

Atlanta (26-18) has followed a six-game winning streak from Dec. 16-26 with a 6-6 stretch, which has featured wildly contrasting results at both ends of the court.

It includes three of the Hawks' six games in which they've scored at least 120 points this season, as well as three of their eight in which they finished with fewer than 90. In addition, two of their four games in which they've allowed more than 110 points, as well as the two lowest-scoring outputs by opponents, are contained in the stretch.

The final three losses in the span have come against teams with losing records, the latest being Thursday's 91-88 defeat to Sacramento. That snapped the Hawks' three-game winning streak as they've opened their four-game trip 1-1.

Atlanta committed 19 turnovers and shot 41.7 percent while making eight of 33 from 3-point range. The Hawks' 24.2 percentage from beyond the arc was their worst since Dec. 28, which was also the previous time they had committed 19 turnovers.

The Kings outrebounded the Hawks 56-42 and went on an 18-0 run in the third quarter to build a 17-point lead. Atlanta chipped away in the final 12 minutes but failed to get off a shot on two possessions in the final 13 seconds.

"It's tough when you're on the road and down by 17 points (in the third quarter)," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We just didn't have enough time to get back over the hump."

Sacramento handed the Hawks their third loss in four road games and 11th in 18 since opening the season 4-0 away from home. This trip begins a stretch of six of seven on the road.

Atlanta has split its last six matchups with sub-.500 teams, but Phoenix (13-31) is likely the one with the most issues.

The Suns are 1-15 in their last 16, the first time they've endured such a stretch since Feb. 10-March 13, 1977. They've lost six in a row and played Thursday's 117-89 defeat to San Antonio without five of their top seven scorers.

Starting guard Brandon Knight sat out due to an abductor strain, while forwards Mirza Teletovic (sprained ankle), Jon Leuer (back spasms) and Markieff Morris (shoulder strain) were injured before or during Tuesday's 97-94 loss to Indiana. Making matters worse, P.J. Tucker left in the first quarter with a chest contusion.

The recent health concerns, combined with Eric Bledsoe's season-ending knee surgery in December, have crippled a team that's averaged 94.1 points in the last eight games while allowing 108.3.

"We're down a lot of players," rookie guard Devin Booker said. "We're going out there, we know we're less talented, so we just have to play harder."

The Suns have lost seven of eight at Talking Stick Resort Arena and are trying to avoid a winless three-game homestand.

The Hawks swept the 2014-15 season series after Phoenix had won 10 of the previous 13 meetings. Atlanta is 4-18 in its last 22 in the desert.

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