The Phoenix Suns dominated the third quarter of Monday night's match-up against the Atlanta Hawks and used it to pull away for the win 102-95 at Philips Arena in Atlanta in front of more than 12,000 disappointed fans.
The Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns have had vastly different NBA seasons to date. The Suns were always considered to be one of the better teams in the west while the Hawks have over-achieved for long stretches of the season to hang on to the final playoff position in the east.
While Phoenix has compiled a 41-29 record, they play in the western conference and so are not assured of a playoff position yet. They are fighting for their playoff lives currently in the eight spot. Similarly Atlanta is in the last playoff position in the east but had a significantly worse record at 31-37.
The problem for Atlanta has been a lack of depth. They’ve had several key injuries and have had difficulty keeping pace with other teams who are notably deeper off the bench. They recently had a long slide where they lost 15 of 16 games that put them in the precarious position of giving up the final playoff spot to the Knicks. They have halted that slide but are a lot closer to giving up the last playoff spot so every gsame becomes much more important.
Despite their ongoing problems with injuries (Korver is the latest victim) Atlanta was hoping to put up a good fight and sneak the win at the end. Unfortunately the game didn’t work out that way as Phoenix ran away from the Hawks in the third quarter.
The game was close at the half with the Hawks leading by 3 but the Suns put together a 12-point advantage in the third quarter that they would not relinquish.
The trouble was that the Suns were spreading the Hawks out. For the game they shot 50% from three-point territory which was a huge advantage. In the third quarter it went as high as 60%.
But it wasn’t just the three point shots, the Suns would use the pull up jumper to great effect from inside the “three” to spread out Atlanta’s defense and then, once open, would use Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe to penetrate the lane for the easy lay-up.
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said “Give Phoenix a lot of credit tonight. They’re a team that can shoot the ball…they spread you out and their guards attack the paint.”
On the third quarter, Lou Williams added “We just couldn’t get stops. They made a few in a row [three point shots] and that kind of hurt us. After that we were playing uphill.”
Coach Jeff Hornacek of the Suns noted, “We weren’t playing all that great, we were just playing. Then in the third quarter we came out and really got after it defensively, we also scored 35 points.”
No one player really dominated for either team. Eric Bledsoe led all scorers with 20 points but Goran Dragic had 19 and Markieff Morris had 17 in support. For the Hawks, DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap each had 19 points.
With the loss the Hawks drop to 31-38 and are now only two and half games ahead of New York for the final playoff position for the Eastern Conference. Phoenix occupy the last playoff spot but are tied at 42-29 with the Mavericks.
Atlanta next plays in Minnesota on Wednesday while Phoenix plays in DC.