Phoenix Suns 102, Atlanta Hawks 95 – Winning season


With four straight wins, including tonight’s 107-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, the Phoenix Suns have officially ended their streak of three straight losing seasons. 42 wins is a big number for a franchise accustomed to winning and playing in the postseason. It symbolizes Phoenix’s rise from the ashes of the Steve Nash era. Although there is still much to be decided for this current squad, 42 wins in the West is proof of how hard everyone – from the front office to Coach Hornacek to the players – has worked over the last eight months. The Suns are currently tied with the Mavericks for the eighth spot in the West and sit just a half game behind Memphis in seventh.

Despite the fact that Atlanta is barely clinging to a playoff spot in the East and is now seven games below .500, this was not an easy win for the Suns. Coming off yesterday’s draining comeback win and long flight from Minnesota, Phoenix came out sloppy with the ball. They committed nine turnover in the first half (18 for the game) which led to extra possessions for Atlanta. The Hawks were focused on slowing the game down in the first half and limiting fast break opportunities for the Suns. Forced to play halfcourt offense, Phoenix was indecisive and dull. If not for some hot shooting by Channing Frye (18 points, 4-of-9 from downtown), the Hawks might have put Phoenix in a big hole early.

The Suns’ ineffectual plodding continued until just after halftime when Phoenix ripped off a 33-16 run through the end of the third. That burst put Phoenix up 10 and the game essentially out of reach for the Hawks. This run was fueled by 14 points from Goran Dragic, nine from Eric Bledsoe, and nearly 64% shooting by the Suns as a team. It turned the tide and allowed Phoenix to dominate the Atlanta in nearly every phase of the game. The Suns outrebounded the Hawks 39-32 and held Atlanta to under 42% shooting. Phoenix also dished out more assists (21-18) which is incredible considering that Atlanta has the second best assist rate in the NBA while Phoenix has the second worst.

When the Hawks tried to claw their way back into the game in the final frame, Gerald Green and Markieff Morris were there to peg them back. Both Green and Kieff chipped in nine points in the final quarter. Morris also handed out three assists. Markieff finished with 17 points while Green had 13 on just six shots. The Hawks were led by 19 points from DeMarre Carroll and 15 points from Lou Williams off the bench.

For more on this game, let’s answer our three preview questions.

Will the Suns shoot over 50% from the floor?

Yes, the streak continues. The Suns have still yet to lose a game this season when shooting over 50%.

Phoenix was efficient from top to bottom in this one with nearly everyone, save Channing Frye, having a better second half than first. Phoenix had five players score in double figures, and went 12-of-24 from downtown. Though the Suns did struggle early against Atlanta’s trapping pseudo-zone defense, the team shared the ball more and more as the game went on which wore down the Hawks’ defense and led to lots of wide open shots in the second half. Phoenix also had 21 fast break points and lots of buckets out of secondary transition plays.

Can the Suns limit Paul Millsap?

The answer is yes, though the box score might not agree. Millsap scored 19 points in 38 minutes and earned 10 trips to the free throw line. But despite those numbers, the Suns made him work extremely hard for his points. Their stout defense on Atlanta’s star forward bogged down the Hawks’ half court offense and helped the Suns force 17 turnovers. With the Suns’ defense focused on limiting him, Millsap focused on drawing contact and getting to the line very early on in the game. While that tactic was effective, it ultimately took him out of his offensive game. He wasn’t as mobile without the ball and lacked court vision (0 assists.) Channing Frye, who guarded Millsap for the majority of the game, did a really excellent job alongside Goran Dragic in defending the Atlanta’s pick and roll with Millsap and point guard Jeff Teague. Frye did a great job stopping Teague at the point of attack, allowing Dragic to recover, then recovering himself to Millsap who opted to pop instead of roll more often than not. That pick and roll is a big reason why Millsap made the All Star team this season. When the Suns took that away, he really had no answer.

What’s next for the Dragic and Bled Show?

The biggest news from this game is that Eric Bledsoe looks good as new. This is the third straight game he has scored 20+ points, but this was the first game since his return that Bledsoe’s jumper looked great. The first year Sun hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc as well as a few mid-range jumpers. When he wasn’t lofting from deep, Bledsoe penetrated and finished at will. He had two highlight drives in this game that drew loud reactions from the Atlanta crowd. Some of that cheering may have been from the family members Eric had in attendance. Bledsoe is rounding into top form just at the right time for Phoenix.

Goran Dragic was quiet in the first half, recording just five points and three assists. In the third, Dragic went off, hitting six of his nine shots and handing out another pair of assists as Phoenix took control of the game. Dragic’s ability to be a one man fast break never ceases to amaze. At the end of the third quarter, with Atlanta waiting to take the last shot, the Suns forced a steal and got the ball to Dragic who was streaking down the right wing. Dragic took two dribbles, split a pair of Atlanta defenders with a jumping spin move, and finished smoothly with his left. The basket came out of nowhere and was further proof of how unstoppable Goran can be in transition. He and Bledsoe are playing better together every game. That’s the best thing that can happen to the Suns with 11 games to play.

And 1

  1. P.J. Tucker had the most P.J. Tucker line possible: eight points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals, six personal fouls, and a tech.

Tags: Atlanta Hawks Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • EBJM

    When Len turns 24 he will be the next Gorgui Dieng!

    I mean so many 20 year-old centers step right into the NBA and dominate!

  • DZ

    Rarely do I really agree with Charles Barkley (loved him when he played for the Suns though) but during an NCAA segment he was on recently he said something that I do totally agree with him on. MOST of the kids who the “one-and-done” trip to the NBA aren’t ready for the NBA. Rarely there will be players like LeBron and Kobe that will be able to make the jump from HS to the NBA or someone that actually can do the one-and-done thing and be a valuable NBA player but most can’t. That makes the draft more of a crap game.

    Move the draft age up to 20 and let anyone who stays 4 years in collage to enter the NBA as a free agent. That will increase the level of talent in the NBA and encourage more players to develop their skills in collage before leaving.

  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    Let’s get a win tonight OKC!!!

  • Foreveris2long

    Sunsn7, regarding Plum Dog being compared to Pollard and Vlade. I can definitely see the Pollard analogy. However Vlade might be insulted as he was a pretty skilled big man. He had soft hands allowing him to catch passes in the lane and had a decent offensive game. Plum Dog has trouble catching anything except lob passes in the lane and essentially has no perimeter game. I like the Pollard analogy though.

    DZ Making kids wait to enter the NBA is a great issue.
    In my opinion making a kid wait until they are 20 years old is unduly harsh and may even be unconstitutional. I have always had a problem with arbitrarily denying someone the right earn a living post age 18. I can understand the NFL because it is a more physical game and the health of the new draftee is a major concern. However the NBA is probably less physical today than it was previously. As some 18 or 19 year olds have proven they can play in the NBA, to arbitrarily exclude all of them is fundamentally wrong and perhaps illegal. Some of the greatest to have ever played the game came in the league directly out of high school. So while the vast majority need more seasoning how can we systematically preclude those who might be ready from performing their chosen profession?

    While I agree the kids coming in the NBA after one and done for the most part are not good enough to contribute, I blame the GMs for drafting them, not the players. The GMs IMO are always looking for protection from their own perceived ineptness. At the last CBA agreement they argued for weeks about things they had total control of like length of contracts, salaries, etc. The current CBA now has plenty of provisions that will insulate the greedy owners/GMs from themselves.

    I do agree a system similar to minor league baseball where a kid can get drafted after high school, allow them to play in the minor league system while getting paid and the team promises to fund their college education if the kids pursue it later. I guess my point is although I could be wrong, after age 18 unless there is a compelling reason such as health/safety, a kid should be allowed to earn a living in their chosen profession. Now if there is some statistic that 19 year old kids are injured substantially more than 20 year old kids in the NBAi it would be worth re-visiting..

    Thanks for bringing up a great issue DZ.

  • DZ

    Good points, F2L. Perhaps allowing them to enter the draft system at 18 would be okay IF there was also the option of entering the NBA as a free agent IF they spend 4 years in collage could be the best compromise.

    That way no one would be denied their right to earn a living when they became an “adult” at 18 but it would also reward players who spent 4 years in collage developing their skills by entering the NBA as free agents that could sign with whichever team made them the best contract offer instead of whichever team drafts them.

  • sunsn7

    Foreveris, if you read my post again, I was only comparing Plumlee to Pollard. I referenced Divac because Pollard came off the bench for him.

    If Alex Len can develop into a Vlade Divac type then the Suns will be in great shape.

  • Foreveris2long

    Sunsn7 thanks for correcting the misread. Absolutely my screwup.

  • Foreveris2long

    DZ I think I like the 4 years in college gives the senior the right to be an absolute free agent entering the league. While I think greed will overcome most kids along with an unwillingness to study to stay eligible, the ones who stay should be rewarded. I think that is an excellent idea.

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com brenton

    Right now high school players can go into the d league, then a year later enter the draft. Most just choose not to.

    Dallas/OK tied right now. Rooting hard for the thunder.

  • phx suns fan in la

    Tied at 111 dallas takes the thunder to overtime

  • sunsn7

    Overtime

  • sunsn7

    OKC hasn’t scored a single point since I tuned in.

    Tuning out

  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    Damn

  • john

    Not that I agree the age limit should be upped, but it’s not unconstitutional to have experience requirements for jobs.

    It’s a complicated issue, no doubt, but I’m pretty sick of the athlete side of things (and I was on that side in my past life) that they deserve the right to earn a living, whether it’s the college athletes who want the money or the college athletes who want to go pro earlier. Pay your dues like everyone else has to. Learn some lessons. Have a life. Work hard. Play hard. But just because you choose do something for free and someone else profits off of it doesn’t mean you deserve a piece of their pie. And just because you’re good enough to dance doesn’t mean you meet the qualifications for the tournament.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    I did not agree with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision in 2004 to deny the right of Mike Williams and Maurice Clarett to enter the NFL Draft.
    That decision overturned an earlier ruling by a Federal Court Judge who had ruled in favor of Williams and Clarett.
    The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

    NFL scouts had indicated that both players were more than likely to be drafted in the 1st round.

    Yes, in a perfect world I would love to see players stay the full 4 years in college but that was not the point in this case.

    Basketball players were being drafted more for their potential than their immediate value and the same opportunity should have been afforded to football players.
    It has not been demonstrated that a running back is more likely to have a knee blown at the pro level than at the collegiate level.

    In an incredible ruling, the Appeals Court issued a stay of the earlier Judge’s favorable decision just 5 days before the 2004 NFL Draft pending a future decision…..practically unheard of.

    The NFL carries a very Big Stick.

  • john

    Right, it’s definitely a complicated issue, but I don’t see how it’s anything other than a simple right of an employer. Is a salary cap constitutional? How is it constitutional that LeBron James can’t earn the money that the market says he is worth? If LeBron hit the open market in true free agency, I guarantee someone would give him $100M/year. Why should the NBA be allowed to limit his earnings? Is the draft constitutional?

    The way I see it, employers (and the employees have to agree to it as well, if I’m not mistaken) have the right to establish rules of employment that are reasonable, and I believe they have. If an age limit is removed, what’s to stop the draft from expanding to 16-year-olds? And I hate to argue the slippery slope, but we all know that’s immediately where many GMs will go.

    If there were an alternative farm system similar to what most other countries do with soccer clubs (and the ridiculous AAU could be abolished), there MIGHT be a good enough argument to be made that the age limit should be removed, but at this point there are compelling arguments to be made for both sides that the age limit is a good thing.

    I’m just rambling. It’s early, I’m probably not even coherent. I need coffee.

  • john

    Btw, I know it was mentioned earlier, but there are other options for people who want to make money besides the NBA.

  • sunsn7

    Completely off subject but as far as local news, anyone familiar with the “Mikey the pit bull” story? About the pit bull that mauled a 4 year old boy, permantly disfiguring his face?

    Because of the public outcry..for saving the dog… a judge has spared the life of the pit bull, had him defanged, neutered, and will spend the rest of its life in an animal rehabilitation facility. Meanwhile citizens flocked to the local tv cameras, wearing their supportive t-shirts, even having statewide and nationwide fundraisers…for the dog.

    I ask myself what in the hell is the matter with people when a vicious dog (who also attacked and mauled another dog just 6 mos. earlier) is treated like a victim and the boy himself is treated as an afterthought? This boy is facing years of reconstructive surgery but the public’s sentiment seems to be with the dog. I didn’t understand it, it didn’t make much sense. Then I saw the name and picture of the kid, Kevin Vicente, a little Mexican boy.

    Now the picture is far more clear. the thing about it, I bet these people who care more for the dog’s well being than that of the boy, actually see themselves as “good people”.

    In my opinion it’s an indictment on our society as a whole.

    Now bring on the dismissive comments.

  • Foreveris2long

    John regarding Lebron’s wages, everything unfair is not unconstitutional. Age restrictions are a suspect classification because it is a protected category under the constitution, Additionally the players are part of a union where salary caps were agreed to. Now the union agreement will not stop a player from contesting the legality of the restriction but there has to be a legal basis. Health and safety of a player is a compelling interest which assisted football in their restriction. Generally speaking an employer or business needs a compelling interest to overcome a suspect classification like age.Tthe case Hawki referenced gives a good analogy on the constitutionality of the age restriction.

  • sunsn7

    * oh btw, I have 3 dogs myself *