Suns Sneak Away With a Loss in Atlanta

Mar 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) and Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) reach for a loose ball in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) and Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) reach for a loose ball in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

At this point in the season with only eight games left there is absolutely no reason for the Suns to win. So they benched Booker. And yet they still came closer to victory that they have throughout this entire streak.

The Atlanta Hawks may have just bought themselves a spot in the 2017 Eastern Conference playoffs, although with the way they played today against possibly the most intentionally short-handed team in history, the inevitable slide off the proverbial cliff may have also only been delayed by a game.

When the season began the Atlanta Hawks looked like they were a sure bet for the playoffs, and as recently as two and a half weeks ago were literally within striking range of the number one seed in the East. Then over their prior seven games Atlanta has lost all ability to score and entered this afternoon’s game on a seven game losing streak.

Atlanta and Phoenix met tonight, two teams with a combined 0-15 record since March 12, meaning something had to give. Phoenix, who is desperately  trying not to win a game, benched Devin Booker who just two games ago scored 70 points, with a supposed re-aggravation of his left ankle. On the surface this might seem like a legitimate reason to bench their young star player, although they were also facing a team in a free-fall and wanted to try everything they could to guarantee losing supremacy.

Not surprisingly the Suns started out as flat as they have all season scoring only 12 points in the opening quarter finding themselves down 15 at the end of the first. Surprisingly, the little team from Phoenix that could worked their way back to a three-point deficit at halfime, and never sinking to a deficit greater than six in the third before actually taking a lead early in the fourth, the team’s first lead in 146:53 game minutes (which has  to be their longest stretch without a lead all season).

Fortunately, unfortunately, that lead, which ballooned to seven points, only lasted less than four minutes before Jose Calderon hit a three followed by two more from Dennis Schroder quickly giving the Hawks back the lead they would never relinquish.

Quite literally the Suns snuck away with the loss, snatching it from the jaws of victory, causing every tanking fan to breathe a sigh a relief knowing that their dreams of catching or passing the Lakers in the lottery standings remains a reasonably reality.

T.J. Warren led the Suns in scoring with his second straight 20+ point game scoring 24 on 11-20 for 55.0% from the field adding 8 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots. If the Suns end up with Josh Jackson in the draft, Warren, who has proven time and again this year that when healthy he is a silent but deadly scorer, will prove to be a a hot commodity in the trade market.

Tyler Ulis recorded his fourth double-double since becoming a starter with 15 points and 10 assists, although his shooting remained atrocious. Finishing 6-16 from the field for 37.5%, Ulis drained only 1-5 from beyond the arc, a terrible shooting percentage, and one that will keep him from ever being a regular starter in the league unless his shots start finding the bottom of the basket.

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Jared Dudley quietly put together a near triple-double today with 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Although his 1-6 from beyond the arc both hurt his final scoring tally (he finished 0-3 from the field in the fourth quarter including a missed three) as well as the Suns’ chances of pulling out a victory.

For Atlanta, Dennis Schroder finished with a game-high 27 points with 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 8 turnovers. Ersan Ilyasova and Dwight Howard each grabbed double-doubles with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Ersan and 15 points plus 11 boards for Dwight.

The Hawks continued their terrible scoring since their losing began only managing 95 points in the victory, while Phoenix’s 91 points was their lowest output since scoring the same result in a loss to Memphis on February 8.