PHOENIX (AP) — For three quarters, Atlanta teetered on the brink of a second consecutive loss in the West.
Then came 12 minutes of quintessential Hawks basketball — sharp shooting, tough defense, balanced scoring.
Paul Millsap scored 23 points and Atlanta made five 3-pointers in the final 6:38 to pull away from the Phoenix Suns, 96-87 on Friday night.
Kyle Korver added 14 for the Eastern Conference leaders, who had six players in double figures.
Markieff Morris scored 22, Eric Bledsoe 21 and Marcus Morris 18 for the Suns, who led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter and were up 73-65 entering the fourth.
The Hawks outscored the Suns 31-14 in the fourth quarter. Atlanta was 3 of 11 on 3s through three quarters, missed their first in the fourth, then made five of their final six.
“We believe in our shooters,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We believe in moving the ball and keeping the court spaced. At some points, most nights it turns and the percentages, if they are not with you early, they are going to come late.”
The Suns were 0 for 5 on 3s in the fourth quarter, with seven turnovers resulting in 14 Atlanta points.
“I think our defense stepped up big-time,” Millsap said. “Then on the other end we made some shots and we moved the basketball and trusted each other. I think a lot of it was we figured them out a little bit.”
Korver credited Kent Bazemore’s defense on Bledsoe, who had as many turnovers (four) as he had points in the fourth quarter.
“He guarded Bledsoe so well and made it tough on him,” Korver said, “and I felt they weren’t really in sync after that.”
No Hawks player had more than eight fourth-quarter points.
Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said his team inexplicably grew tired down the stretch.
“When you get tired, you get lazy on some things and mentally you don’t focus and know where guys are, and that is how you end up with the turnovers,” Hornacek said.
“They were active, they were coming after it and getting up on pick-and-rolls. That is when you have to be mentally sharp and tough and move it. We didn’t have the energy in the fourth quarter to deal with them.”
The Hawks improved to 1-1 on its six-game road trip through the West after opening with a loss at Denver.
Millsap and Korver each sank two 3s and Bazemore one in the Hawks’ late surge, when they went 5 for 6.
Atlanta tied it at 77 with a 10-2 run capped by Al Horford’s consecutive mid-range jumpers.
Markieff Morris’ short baseline jumper gave the Suns their final lead, 79-77, with 7:44 to play.
Then came the Hawks’ 3-point barrage.
Millsap, Korver and Bazemore each made one, extending the run to 19-4 and putting Atlanta up 86-79 with 4:02 to play. Korver’s second 3 made it 91-83 with 2:09 left, and Millsap’s final one put the game away at 94-85 with 1:32 to go.
The Suns fell three games behind New Orleans and Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot in the West.
Marcus Morris, P.J. Tucker and Bledsoe each hit 3-pointers in an 11-0 run to put Phoenix up 61-50, and the Suns led 71-60 after Archie Goodwin’s lob to Brandan Wright for a dunk with 3:02 left in the third.
The Suns’ Alex Len sprained his right ankle and was helped to the locker room with seven minutes to play. It’s the third time he’s sprained that ankle this season.
The teams met for the first time this season. They play again April 7 in Atlanta.
Hawks: Atlanta won its 21st road game, tied with Memphis for second-most in the NBA. Golden State has 23 road wins. … Atlanta has not lost three in a row this season and has lost two straight only three times. … The Hawks are at Western Conference leader Golden State next Wednesday night.
Suns: Guard Brandon Knight missed his second game in a row with a sprained ankle. … The Suns are 17-11 against the Eastern Conference, 17-22 against the West.
Hawks: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
Suns: Host the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
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