The Atlanta Hawks were hot from the perimeter, shooting 68% in the first quarter and making 5 of their first 10 threes. But the Phoenix Suns were even hotter and had built a 14-point halftime lead with 12-for-18 shooting on threes and 64% shooting overall by halftime.
"The whole night, I think, both of our teams are hard to guard," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said of the Suns and Hawks. "In terms of how we play, kicking it up and quick shots."
The halftime score was nearly equal to a full Eastern Conference dogfight: 79-65 Suns. As a media mate, Paul Richardson, put it: "It's an All-Star game without any All Stars."
The Suns 79 points are the most by any NBA team in a half this season. The Hawks, missing their top two big men, decided to play as fast as possible and nearly kept pace with the Suns, scoring 65 of their own.
"We knew it was going to be like that," guard Gerald Green said. "But I didn't know they were going to be running like THAT."
"They push the ball," Suns guard Goran Dragic said. "and I was kind of tired the first two minutes. My legs were heavy."
Dragic had a
quiet good game, finishing with only 19 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in 33 minutes.
The Suns made 12 threes in the half, and the teams together made 18. NBA records are 22 and 31, respectively. the Suns own the 22 threes, in a Nov 2010 game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
At halftime, I had the pleasure of watching old veterans Dominique Wilkins (Hawks) and Eddie Johnson (Suns) yuk it up about the lack of D in the first half. Great stuff.
In the second half, the Hawks decided that if the league record 31 treys is going to get beat they needed to contribute more. The Hawks made 5 threes in the third quarter and pulled to within 1 of the Suns before the home boys scored some quick points to pull back out to a 7-point lead at the end of three.
102-95 Suns after three. 25 total threes made. 14 by the Suns. Doesn't look like the Suns will break their own record of 22, but the two teams might just top 31 total.
The fourth quarter was closer than it probably should have been, but the countdown to 31 was on. The teams reached 29 with 3 minutes left, and nothing but garbage time on the docket.
But it was not meant to be.
The Suns merely set an NBA record for most points in a half (79), beat their own season-high in scoring (129) and assists (29 on 44 field goals), and tied their season high for three pointers in a game (15; done two other times this season).
That's 129 points on 44 field goals, folks.
And won easily, despite the Hawks playing hard all the way to the end.
Gerald Green led the Suns with 33 points. The Morris brothers added 39 points and 17 rebounds.
"Like I've been saying all season," Green said afterward. "It's easy playing with guys like Goran and Ish who are able to create and break down the defense. I have the easiest job in the world, knocking down shots."
Jeff Teague had 29 points and 9 assists and Kyle Korver made 6 threes.
"[Korver] is the best shooter in the league," Hornacek said, who was with the Utah organization when Korver was filling it up for the Jazz. "We had P.J. try to run around on him, but it is hard. Kyle has been guarded that way forever and ever. He knows how to get open... he knows how to get off screens... He knows how to just catch it and shoot it."
Hornacek was happy with the win, despite giving up 120 points to get there.
"Sometimes there might look like there was zero defense out there," he said. "But I am sure the guys were trying."
Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris scored a combined 39 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, very evenly distributed. The Suns are now 16-5 when both twins get double digits in scoring.
The game started as most recent Suns games have started - with the Suns not playing with any energy on defense as they try to simply outscore the other team.
A Hawks team missing 5 guys who could start for them scored 18 POINTS IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THE GAME. That's disgusting. Fortunately, the Hawks weren't defending either and the Suns still led on the scoreboard by 4, but all that does is tell the team they don't even need to play D.
Sure enough, the Hawks scored the next 9 points on successive possessions and took at 27-22 lead. Awful focus. Awful.
The Hawks scored at will until Ish Smith and Markieff Morris entered to help get some stops, and the Suns finally grabbed a 3-point lead at the end of one Q, thanks to 6 threes by the Suns in the period.
New "savior" Shavlik Randolph entered with 7 seconds left in the first quarter and the Suns nursing a 5-point lead, and immediately committed a foul to put the Hawks on the line. Oh well. Maybe not the season savior after all?
Suns lead, 40-37.
The second quarter was more of the same, except the Suns got a few more stops and soon the lead was 14 despite the Hawks STILL SHOOTING 66% AND 5-OF-10 FROM THREE. Is that possible? Apparently it is.
Suns finished the half with a 13-point lead thanks to 64% shooting and 12-of-18 on threes. The Hawks made 6 of their own, and the record-watch was on.
NBA record for threes in a game, one team: 22 (Phoenix Suns beat Los Angeles Lakers, Nov 4, 2010)
NBA record for threes in a game, both teams: 31 (Toronto vs. Philly, 2005)