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Suns ride 79-point half to win over Hawks

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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PHOENIX — The Atlanta Hawks didn’t do much to slow the Phoenix Suns’ usual racehorse pace Sunday night.

The result was an offensive explosion for the Suns, who gradually ran away en route to a 129-120 win.

The Suns led 79-65 at halftime after putting up an NBA season-high point total before the break. The arena record for the first half is 81. Phoenix reached 100 points in the closing seconds of the third quarter, when forward Marcus Morris nailed a 3-pointer to give the Suns a 102-95 lead.

The 129 points were a season high for the Suns.

Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek, maintaining that the defense in the game was better than it looked, said, “Both of our teams are hard to guard. Both teams have guards who can penetrate.

“Sometimes it might look like there was zero defense out there, but I’m sure the guys were trying.”

Phoenix (35-24) tied the Dallas Mavericks (36-25) for the final two playoff positions in the Western Conference. Both teams are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (33-25).

Guard Gerald Green led the Suns with 33 points, hitting five of eight 3-point attempts.

Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic, coming off a career-high 40-point explosion against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, settled for 19 points and eight assists.

“I think they are the fastest team in the league,” Dragic, who acknowledged feeling weary early on, said of the Hawks.

Suns forward Markieff Morris, a candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, had 21 points and eight rebounds. He scored in double figures for the 21st time in the past 22 games.

The Hawks (26-32) lost for the 11th time in 12 games.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer bemoaned his team’s transition defense, which he said led to an inordinate number of the Suns’ 15 makes on 3-pointers.

“A lot of it is just a commitment to sprinting back” and stopping the ball, rather than worrying about individual assignments, Budenholzer said.

Then again, teams facing the Suns also must concentrate on guarding the pick-and-roll, he added.

“We did a decent job guarding Dragic, but Gerald Green got away from us,” Budenholzer said.

Guard Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Forward Mike Scott added 20 points.

Hawks guard Kyle Korver scored 18 thanks to 6-for-7 shooting on 3-pointers. Korver extended his NBA record of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 127.

“He is the best shooter in the league,” Hornacek said of Korver. “If he has a split second, the ball is in the hole.”

Everybody was putting the ball in the hole in this one, the Suns in particular.

Phoenix shot 55 percent from the floor, 62.5 percent (15-for-24) on 3-pointers and 86.7 percent from the line. Research showed no Suns team had shot so well in all phases since March 23, 1989, at Golden State, when Hornacek was a player. In that game, he shot 8-for-13, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers and 2-for-3 from the line. He also had nine assists and five steals in just 26 minutes.

Green shot 8-for-10 in the first half Sunday, including 5-for-6 on 3-pointers, for 23 points. Teague had 17 first-half points.

“They were making everything,” Teague said. “We just couldn’t get a defensive stop.”

The Hawks battled gamely, drawing within 95-94 late in the third quarter.

The Suns didn’t put the game away until the final four minutes. Dragic scored on a whirling drive, and moments later, he hit one of two foul shots. When forward P.J. Tucker nailed a 20-footer from the right corner with 3:20 left, the Suns had a 121-110 lead.

The Suns are 42-16 all time at home vs. the Hawks, who shot 52.4 percent from the floor.

NOTES: Suns PG Eric Bledsoe could return “in the next week or two,” now that he has started five-on-five practices and is improving his conditioning, coach Jeff Hornacek said. Bledsoe underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Jan. 2. …The Hawks continue to miss several injured players, notably F/C Al Horford (18.6 points per game) and F Paul Millsap (17.6), their two leading scorers. Backup C Pero Antic, who has been out, now is available to play. …The Suns signed Shavlik Randolph, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound veteran, and he scored two points and grabbed two rebounds in 10 minutes SUnday. Though he is listed as a forward, Randolph may seen more time backing up C Miles Plumlee. “He knows how to play the game — he has a knack for rebounding,” Hornacek said. … To make way for Randolph, the Suns waived C Slava Kravtsov, who played in 20 games, averaging 1.0 points and 0.9 rebounds in 3.0 minutes.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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