Phoenix Suns 118, Atlanta Hawks 114 — Vintage Suns


Nash finally got going in the assist department with 15 and the Suns knocked off the undefeated Hawks. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Throughout the first five games of the season the Phoenix Suns were clearly finding themselves, looking like a shell of the free-flowing, explosive team that characterized them for so many seasons.

But fresh off a double-overtime win over the Grizzlies, the offensive chemistry finally came full circle.

Despite the new faces, Phoenix looked like the Suns of old on their way to a 118-114 road victory Sunday afternoon over the formerly undefeated Atlanta Hawks, a team that had won 14 straight at home.

Steve Nash returned to distributor mode with his first double-digit assist game of the season (19 points, 15 assists), the Suns knocked down 11-of-23 three-pointers, scored their second-most points all season (the most through four quarters) and even blew a 18-point third quarter lead in typical Phoenix Suns fashion.

But despite yielding 64 second-half points and giving Atlanta hope, Nash and the Suns did just enough when it mattered most to fend off the surging Hawks and move to .500 on the season.

Outside of their convincing win over Utah, Sunday’s victory was Phoenix’s most complete game of the season, against the second-best opponent its faced nonetheless.

Six different Suns players scored in double figures and as a team they shot 55.6 percent from the field against an Atlanta squad that allowed an eighth-best 96 points per game and 43.7 percent shooting from the field coming into the game.

“It’s a good win for us. Obviously they are a very good team. They’re playing great,” head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “For them to come back like they did and for us to maintain our poise was very important.”

The Suns came to play Sunday, but the win certainly didn’t come easily. After missing their first 12 three-pointers of the game, the Hawks caught fire in the third quarter, knocking down six threes (three from Mike Bibby alone) in the last 4:52 to cap off a 38-point quarter that ended on a 27-11 Atlanta run.

Behind that barrage of threes, Atlanta turned an 18-point deficit into a 90-88 Suns lead and carried that momentum into the fourth quarter.

Joe Johnson (34 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Jamal Crawford (11 points) and Al Horford (30 points, 10 rebounds) combined for 22 of Atlanta’s 26 fourth-quarter points as the Suns traded baskets for the better part of 12 minutes.

The Hawks clawed back and finally tied the game up at 106 with 2:29 remaining in the game, but Jason Richardson (21 points) hit a jumper, Grant Hill (14 points, six rebounds) drilled two free throws and Nash nailed a 17-footer on Phoenix’s next three possessions to give the Suns some breathing room.

The Hawks still wouldn’t go away, however, as they tied it up at 112 with 42 seconds to go. But the Suns found Channing Frye on the block with Bibby defending him, and after a few dribbles Frye drop stepped into an easy 11-footer off the glass that gave the Phoenix a 114-112 lead.

Atlanta had one last chance with 24.7 seconds remaining, but the Suns finally got their first stop since the 5:03 mark as Johnson missed a runner from nine feet out with eight seconds to play.

Nash iced the game with four straight free throws as the Suns handed the Hawks their first loss of the 2010-11 season and their first home loss in 15 games, breaking what was the league’s longest home win streak.

Atlanta manhandled the Suns in the paint all game long and fought back against a clearly sub-par Phoenix defense, but the Suns overcame the Hawks’ superior size and left A-Town with a win and a ton of positives moving forward.

They finally looked in sync and played like a unit offensively. Nash wasn’t forced to score and created open look after open look for his running mates, while turning it over only twice. The team as a whole totaled 28 assists, after coming into the game ranked 20th in the league in that department, averaging only 19.8 helpers per contest.

“The biggest thing is cohesion,” Nash told The Associated Press. “It’s just going to take a little time. … I think we’re getting better. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting better.”

Yes, the Suns were simply knocking down shots they missed throughout the course of the first five games, but the spacing and offensive flow looked much improved against an above-average Atlanta defense.

While the starters played well, the bench was again outstanding, combining for 46 points. Jared Dudley led the way with 15 points and six rebounds, including a coast-to-coast finish in the second quarter that brought smiles to the Suns’ bench. Josh Childress also impressed with 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.

This was the epitome of a team win for the Suns and between Friday’s gut-check victory over Memphis and this victory over an Eastern Conference contender, the Suns are finally gelling and showing flashes of how good they can be.

And 1

Robin Lopez was underwhelming for the third consecutive game, scoring seven points but grabbing only one rebound in 17 minutes. Lopez has only eight rebounds in his last three games and Frye, who played 29 minutes, is becoming the more reliable center … Although he didn’t take over the game by any means, Hedo Turkoglu followed up his 18-point performance against Memphis with an impressive 11-point, four-assist, four-rebound performance. He didn’t disappear in the offense, knocked down open threes (3-of-6) and even drilled a driving pull-up jumper over Bibby … In his first game in Atlanta since 2008, Childress was welcomed by boos from the Hawks crowd. He faced the boos every time he touched the ball and told The Republic, “I didn’t expect it. I played here for four years. Every single night I played with maximum energy and effort. I don’t think fans realized the business side of it. They don’t know what went on in negotiations. If they felt they need to boo me, so what? I wish them well.” … On the Suns postgame show, Childress explained that Frye must wear Stanford gear for a week as a result of the Stanford-Arizona football game. … Horford completely dominated the Suns’ interior defense, shooting 13-of-16 and scoring at will. “I don’t think anybody in the league works harder than Horford does on either end of the floor,” Gentry said. “Whatever they signed him for, it’s a bargain. He’s a stud.”

Channing’s go-ahead bucket


  • Mel.

    Yeah, Nash. I agree. After the last two games, Hedo does deserve a high-five.

  • Mike Meez

    I’m liking what I’m seeing. This team has barely scraped the surface of their full potential. I can’t wait to see how they develop.

  • Martin

    right Mike, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

    what I really liked and was missing the the last couple of years: bring in a defensive lineup when you need a stop. (bench nash)

    usually nash and other weak defenders stay in there. not this time

  • KJ Loyalist

    @ Martin:

    Your post is the soul reason as to why Gentry is coaching, and D’Antoni is gone. If anybody asks why that change was made, your post is the answer.

    A win is good; gets us back to 500.

    Perimeter defense needs to be fixed though. I think the demand for better rebounding is causing our players to sag a big too much especially on fast breaks. We need to make sure we stick to teams’ good shooters.

  • Shaqita

    Dragic should try Nash’s free throw routine. Childress was using it successfully last game, and it even helped Lou become more efficient last season.

    IMO, shooting Shaq’s FT% is just embarrassing for a PG/SG. Goran is 12/21 (57.1FT%) this season.

  • http://phz-sicks.bandcamp.com PHZ-Sicks

    @Shaqita

    You have to remember that Dragic is dealing with the leg injury. With taking FTs, you have to bend your knees and that might be the cause of him missing FTs.

  • http://www.twitter.com/arturbm Artur Mascarenhas

    I panicked when Nash passed the ball to Frye in this play. Frye had missed a play exactly like this, over Teague, on first half.

    It was a gutty win. Excellent game by Dudley!

    One thing that called my attention regarding the second unit is the poor ball handling.
    Except for Dragic, the other guys are terrible in this territory, so when Atlanda clogged Dragic, the Suns had nowhere to run. I think its important to bring GHill or Hedo along with the second unit to give another option onthe offensive end.

  • Martin

    @KJ Loyalist

    it’s not like the Suns do that since Gentry took over. To me, that’s absolutely new that Gentry does that. usually Nash is always on the court in these moments (see that ugly loss against Atlanda on the crawford three) … or the buzzer beater loss against the lakers in game 5 … there were frye, nash, hill, dud and j-rich on the court … definetely not the best defensive lineup …

  • Martin

    @Artur

    I also panicked when i saw that ball is going to frye, luckily he made it and that might jump start him offensively … still I don’t want that to be the suns’ go-to play at the end of an important game …

    And you’re right, the ballhandling in some possesions was absolutely awful. it looked like they would hand a hot potato to each other …

    still a nice and very important win … the schedule remains tough. mem and sac are winnable, then a four game strech against LAL, DEN, MIA and ORL ….

  • KJ Loyalist

    Gentry has always trusted his bench in key stretches.

    He’s done that from the moment he took over for Terry Porter.

    He’s allowed Dragic to feast at will as long as he’s hot. Remember – it was Dragon, not Two Time that eviscerated San Antonio last year in a playoff game.

    He also left Amare on the bench in favor of Lou. It is part of his coaching style to leave the bench mob in when they’re punishing people.

    Even in his previous head coaching positions he was never afraid to let the subs have the glory as long as they were doing well.

  • Michael

    Did everyone forget that there was a major mismatch? I was terrified when the ball went into frye’s hands as well, but later i thought about it and it was a great play. Bibby was guarding frye and it was a pick your poison situation for them. let bibby try to defend frye or double team him and kick the ball out to a suns shooter. I am also very happy to see turk getting his groove on from distance.

  • suns68

    I was like “hell yeah” when Nash passed it in to Frye. It was a total mismatch with him being guarded by Bibby.
    The offense for defense switch made sense this time in this particular game situation. But a lot of times it doesn’t, because Nash is our closeout free-throw shooter and clock manager.

  • Steve

    55% and we win by four? Wow. Great win, especially because it was on the road. And even though W’s are all that count, I’m not extremely encouraged by the fact that we had to shoot that well in order to eke out a win.

    As far as the recent discussion about Nash/No Nash on the court at the end of games, I think he has to be there still. He’s one of the best FT shooters of all time. He’s one of the best distributors of all time. He’s one of the best 3-pt shooters of all time. He’s a better ball-handler than Goran. EVERYTHING offensively screams Nash. I agree that Goran is a better defender, but I don’t know if Nash’s poor defense would beat us as much as Goran’s poor offense. In the Suns’ system, everyone feeds off the PG. We need our best offensive PG out there in order to have anything going.

  • Jake

    Win is always good, especially on the road against the Hawks and Jamal Crawford. (last year’s 3 pointer is still bitter.)

    I liked Suns defense in the first half. But in the third period, it was awful. Their defensive rotation and transition defense need to be improved. But I am sure they are getting better.

    Dudley brought so much energy as always.

    Nash might be the best free throw shooter in the history, but it is always amazing to see him so calm and determined at the line.

    There were many discussions about Channing Frye’s defense here, but I think his defensive effort and understanding look better this year.

    Let’s hope Suns’ back to back win tonight.

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  • Brent

    I was blessed to be at the game!

    Great win, especially after how it played out compared to the game in ATL last year — they don’t pack the place in the ATL, but those that are there are extremely loud and it got crazy loud in the 4th when the 3′s started dropping for the Hawks.

    One point of discussion I noted was how Nash was looking for Lopez to roll harder on multiple occasions with them in the pick-n-roll. He obviously didn’t show his frustration but you could tell he knew he had a great angle to pass and wanted to – but the roll wasn’t there.

    Ride the bench to victory tonight!