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By Andrew Chapman
PHOENIX – Suns coach Earl Watson said Tuesday that a key emphasis for his team is to play with consistency through entire games.
“We understand that in the first quarter and second quarter we find ourselves down by 20, and that can’t happen,” Watson said as the Suns prepare to play host to the Atlanta Hawks at Talking Stick Resort Arena Wednesday night. “For us, it has to be consistent identity and effort throughout the entire game.”
The Suns hope to bounce back after dropping their 13th game of the season, a 120-114 home loss to the Denver Nuggets Sunday, despite a career-high 35 points from guard Eric Bledsoe.
“I feel unbelievable and confident,” Bledsoe said. “It’s still not too far of a reach for us to make the playoffs.”
For the Suns to reach the postseason, they’ll have to begin winning games on their homecourt, where they are just 2-5 this season.
They will try to change that trend against an Atlanta team that has experienced its own troubles. The Hawks have lost three in a row and six of their last seven games.
Still, with forward Paul Millsap and center Dwight Howard on their front line, the Hawks are formidable and physical.
Suns center Tyson Chandler knows he has his work cut out for him against Howard.
“You’ve got to keep him off the glass and keep him away from easy buckets,” Chandler said. “Dwight has been a great big man for a long time. I think the biggest thing is limiting his easy shots.”
Bledsoe agreed that containing Howard will be critical if the Suns hope to win.
“Dwight is an unbelievable player in the NBA,” Bledsoe said. “He’s been playing great since being with the Hawks, so we have to execute the gameplan coach drew up for us, and we have to go play hard.”
Watson said the Hawks will be coming to Phoenix with a sense of urgency because of their recent skid, and the Suns up-tempo offense will be challenged by Howard and the Hawks, who are among the best defensive teams in the NBA.
The Hawks rank ninth in the NBA in points allowed.
“We have to create pace with our turnovers and our youth movement. We have to play fast and be accountable — but not be too quick when we hurry,” said Watson, borrowing a line from the late UCLA coach John Wooden, who befriended the Suns coach when Watson played for the Bruins.