What: Atlanta Hawks (23-23) vs. Phoenix Suns (31-14)
When: 7:00 p.m. MST
Where: PHX Arena
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns return home with a 3-1 road trip under their belt. It may have been ugly but it was successful. The team averaged 18.3 points with 2.2 assists on 29.4 FG% in the 4th quarter over four games and still came out the other side with 3 wins. That is the difference between this Suns’ squad and years past: we’d be 0-4 with those kind of 4th quarter numbers if this were last season.
Perhaps some home cooking and late-game pick and rolls will fix the Suns’ late game woes. Phoenix is beginning a three-game homestand over the next week. 9 of their next 11 games will be at the friendly confines of PHX Arena.
Next up on the slate? The Atlanta Hawks, a .500 team lead by 3rd-year guard Trae Young.
Atlanta was scheduled to visit Phoenix earlier in the season, but then the Washington COVI-zards happened. The Suns had three games postponed, their matchup against the Hawks being one of them. The #6 seed in the Eastern Conference entering winning 7 of their last 10 and are on game 6 of an 8-game west coast swing.
Probable Starting Lineups
Chris Paul - Devin Booker - Mikal Bridges - Jae Crowder - Deandre Ayton
Trae Young - Tony Snell - Bogdan Bogdanovic - John Collins - Clint Capela
Back to the home whites!
- Adbel Nader (day-to-day, knee)
- Cam Reddish (Achilles, out)
- De’Andre Hunter (day-to-day, knee)
- Kris Dunn (ankle, out)
- Points-per-Game/Offensive Rating: 112.5 (15th)/115.0 (9th)
- Opponents Points-per-Game/Defensive Rating: 111.0 (12th)/113.5 (23rd)
- Net Rating: +1.6 (9th)
Atlanta entered the season with high hopes and high expectations. The team that finished 20-47 (14th in the east) last season was clearly a disappointment, so GM Travis Schlenk went to work in the off-season to address their needs. Their goal is simple: revolve their offense around third-year point guard Trae Young, adding bigs who he can dish assists to and shooters who can knock down open shots after he penetrates.
Schlenk drafted Onyeka Okongwu with the 6th pick in the draft, traded for Danilo Gallinari and Tony Snell, then signed Bogdan Bogdanovic and Rajon Rondo via free agency. Hope was high in the ATL for a team that would have the ability to put points on the board.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the team on paper did not meet their expectations. Lloyd Pierce, who had been the head coach since the start of the 2018-19, was let go. At the time Pierce was terminated the Hawks were 14-20. Nate McMillan took over and the change has appeared to breathe life into the organization. They 9-3 since McMillan took the reins.
Trae Young leads the team with 25.6 points on 59.2 TS%. John Collins was never traded from Atlanta and continues to to be an efficient force in the paint, scoring 18.4 points on 62.9 TS%.
The Hawks make the second most free throws per game (20.1) on the fourth most attempts (24.5). Young is responsible for 8.9 of those attempts nightly.
- Points-per-Game/Offensive Rating: 113.4 (11th)/115.4 (8th)
- Opponents Points-per-Game/Defensive Rating: 107.0 (3rd)/108.9 (4th)
- Net Rating: +6.5 (4th)
Welcome home Suns.
Despite their fourth quarter woes as of late, they still are winning games and sit in 2nd place in the Western Conference. If they want to keep pace with the Utah Jazz, they have to keep winning. Because Utah just isn’t.
What continues to impress me about this team is, as they continue to learn ways to win, they are doing so if a plethora of different ways. When I hear people provide feedback relative to consistency I respond with this: they are consistently winning. That is what matters.
Are there kinks along the way that need to be addressed? Sure. Their 4th quarters on the last road trip were choppy. Dario Saric is in his own head. Their isolation tendencies at the end of game leave more to be desired. The is second in FT% (83.4%) but last in the FTA (18.3).
This homestand could be an opportunity to focus on deficiencies in their game while improving their record, as the competition is less than stellar. Will they ‘play down to the level of their competition’? We shall see.
Keys to a Suns Win
It may come down the whistles in this one, which is a scary thought. Atlanta knows how to draw fouls. In doing so, they get easy points. The Suns, conversely, don’t. My hope is the Suns (and referees) do not fall victim to the fail-baiting ways of the Atlanta Hawks.
I’m really excited to see Mikal Bridges on Trae Young. Matchups like this are why we love the NBA. Decent offense versus great defense.
Suns 114, Hawks 109