Smith made a strong return to Atlanta’s lineup with 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and the Hawks led by double figures throughout the final period of their 107-94 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
Entering the fourth quarter, Smith was three assists shy of the triple-double. Hawks coach Larry Drew said he was hoping Smith could reach the milestone, but even Smith had to smile when teammates missed shots after catching his passes.
“All I can do is distribute the ball and hopefully they knock the basket down,” Smith said. “It’s OK. I’ll take the win over the triple-double any day.”
Smith posted Atlanta’s last triple-double on Nov. 28, 2010, at Toronto.
“Josh made some really good plays throughout the game,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “You could see he was very engaged in everything we were doing. ... I would have liked for him to have three more assists.”
Smith logged almost 36 minutes after missing one game with a sprained left knee. All five starters scored in double figures, with Al Horford adding 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Kyle Korver had four 3-pointers and 16 points. Devin Harris had 15 and DeShawn Stevenson scored 12.
“We were very unselfish and we played like a team, passing the ball extremely well,” Smith said.
The Hawks had 27 assists.
Goran Dragic had 21 points and eight assists for the Suns, who have lost three straight and five of six.
Dragic said Phoenix couldn’t keep up with the Hawks’ combination of the strong inside play of Smith and Horford and the 3-point shooting of Korver.
“They have great players in the low post, Smith and Horford,” Dragic said. “A lot of times when Josh Smith had the ball, we tried to bring the guy from the other side. He’s a great passer, he found open guys and we were too late. Especially when the weak side is Korver. He’s a great shooter. And they were making shots.”
The Hawks made 12 of 23 3-pointers. Korver made four of five attempts.
The Suns fell to 7-27 on the road.
Interim coach Lindsey Hunter said the Suns’ 24 turnovers were “pretty much the ballgame for us.”
“And some of our shots were like turnovers because they were pretty bad,” Hunter added. “On the road, you can’t turn the ball over and make mental mistakes defensively. I think we did both of those things when the game still was manageable.”
The Suns are tied with New Orleans for the worst record (22-44) in the Western Conference.
“It’s tough, but everybody is a professional and we have to play right to the end of the season,” Dragic said.
Hunter said his team played with more energy than in their ugly 111-81 loss at Houston on Wednesday night.
“Guys fought a lot better,” Hunter said. “Effort was a lot better. It’s just a process of us learning how to finish games and how to win tough road games.”
The Hawks took the lead for good early in the second period and had the advantage in double figures most of the second half.
Jermaine O’Neal scored 18 points for Phoenix. Markieff Morris had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Michael Beasley had 10 points.
Hawks 7-foot center Johan Petro sank a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining in the first quarter. It was only Petro’s second 3-pointer in 12 attempts in his eight NBA seasons. His first 3 came last season with the Nets.
While Petro celebrated his rare long-distance shot, the Suns made a long pass to Markieff Morris, who beat the buzzer with a 21-foot jumper.
Stevenson closed the first half with another buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 57-46 lead.
Jeff Teague missed his second straight start with a sprained left ankle. Harris was the fill-in starter at point guard, but Teague had eight points in 22 minutes.
Backup guard Dahntay Jones, who spent the last two days answering criticism of his late-game defense on Kobe Bryant in the Hawks’ win over the Lakers on Wednesday night, made his first appearance with 4:46 remaining. Bryant sprained his left ankle when he landed on Jones’ foot after missing a last-second jumper.
NOTES: The teams split the season series. The Suns beat the Hawks 92-87 in Phoenix on March 1. ... Dragic had 10 of the Suns’ first 14 points. ... Korver’s second-quarter 3-pointer gave him 3s in 58 consecutive games, the NBA’s longest active streak and the league’s longest since Peja Stojakovic’s 62-game run in 2008. ... The Hawks wore their 1990s throwback uniforms.