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Abdur-Rahim scores 33 as Hawks down frustrated Suns

3/16/2002

ATLANTA (AP) -- Despite the math, Shareef Abdur-Rahim believes
the Atlanta Hawks have a chance at the playoffs.

"We haven't matched the expectations that we had coming into
the season," Abdur-Rahim said. "But we're still trying to make a
push for the playoffs and then end the season on as high of a note
as possible."

Abdur-Rahim scored 33 points and Toni Kukoc added 23 as the
Hawks defeated Phoenix 104-89 Friday night, sending the Suns to
their sixth consecutive road defeat.

With their third straight victory and fifth in seven games, the
Hawks (25-39) matched their victory total for last season -- the
worst in franchise history. They are six games behind Charlotte,
which currently sits in eighth place in the East, and would have to
surpass three other teams just to catch the Hornets.

With 18 games remaining, the Hawks also would need to finish
16-2 just to make it to .500.

Abdur-Rahim, who had a game-high 12 rebounds, put the game out
of reach with 3:56 remaining on a 20-foot jumper from the top of
the key that made it 93-75 and gave Atlanta its biggest lead of the
night.

"I was just taking advantage of what they gave me," said
Abdur-Rahim, who was 2-for-3 on 3-point attempts. "Consistency and
balance are definitely what you need."

Phoenix, which has lost four in a row overall, never drew closer
than five in the second half. After Stephon Marbury's 3-pointer
made it 54-49 early in the third, the Suns were outscored 21-13 to
end the quarter.

Marbury, who was not available for comment afterward, led the
Suns with 25 points, but he was only 1-for-6 on 3-point attempts.
Shawn Marion scored 16 for Phoenix, and Jake Tsakalidis had 10
rebounds.

Marion was frustrated that coach Frank Johnson made the Suns
stick to a man-to-man defense the longer the game wore on.

"We didn't have it on the defensive end," Marion said. "They
came out and took it to us, but I think that zone confused them a
lot. They couldn't do anything with the zone. I think we should've
run it earlier, but coach wanted to stick with the man, so we
did."

Jason Terry, who scored a combined 63 points in the Hawks' last
two games, finished with only 11 points. Guarded tightly by Marbury
all night, Terry took only two shots inside the arc. He was 3-for-6
on 3-pointers.

"I felt as if they had only one shooter on the floor, and that
was J.T.," Marion said of Terry. "Abdur-Rahim was hitting from
the outside, but I don't consider him a threat from 3-point land.
And they were bigger than us and getting rebounds. We should have
gone to the zone."

Johnson thought the Suns were troubled by losing reserve center
Jake Voskuhl to a twisted ankle in the second quarter. Phoenix
already had forward Tom Gugliotta out with an ailing right foot and
guards Randy Brown and Joe Crispin on the injured list.

"When things aren't going so well, that's when you have to dig
deeper," Johnson said. "We had a chance to cut it to five, and
then we had the ball and the Hawks got it back. We had the life
taken out of us."

After Bo Outlaw's free throw gave them a seven-point lead late
in the first, the Suns were outscored 36-14, falling behind 51-36
on DerMarr Johnson's tip-in with 2:09 left in the second.

Game notes
Penny Hardaway, out of the starting lineup for the 10th
straight game, was only 1-for-8 and played just 12 minutes. "Not
knowing when I'm going to get in the game is very hard," Hardaway
said. "Being a veteran, you just want a little bit more respect."
... The Hawks ended a five-game losing streak to Phoenix. ... They
improved to 27-17 overall against the Suns in Atlanta. ... Suns
communications director Julie Fie said Voskuhl, who's listed as
day-to-day, did not reinjure the stress fracture reaction in his
left foot that sidelined him for 10 games.