The Suns suffered their worst loss of the season, 135-103, on the road in Atlanta on Wednesday night in the second of a back to back.
Both teams were lights out to start, scoring 30-plus apiece in the first quarter. For the Hawks, most of the offense came from Trae Young, who had six points and six assists early. On the other end, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges got the Suns going.
The first hiccup for Phoenix came when Bridges picked up his second foul on a three-point try by Young. These are plays Young constantly get defenders out of position on, and Bridges should have known better. When he hit the bench, it was Torrey Craig who matched up with Young.
Still, the Suns were able to keep pace, finishing the first down just four, 42-38.
The second quarter was dominated by Booker, Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who scored nine points for each side, respectively.
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Bridges was also able to avoid another foul, and the Suns made up some ground. They headed into halftime down two, 67-65.
The second half is when the bottom fell out. It was a balanced attack from Atlanta, who had seven players in double figures when all was said and done. They stayed hot from three even though they’re taking fewer under Nate McMillan, and kept moving the ball to the tune of 30-plus assists. Most impressive was Young, who had 16 points and 12 assists to just one turnover.
We also saw a lot of rookie center Onyeka Okongwu in the second half, as he tallied 18 minutes. That’s in some part because it was another quiet game from both Deandre Ayton and Frank Kaminsky, while Dario Saric did not play until garbage time.
This was the recipe all night, run offense through the pick and roll, get the Suns in rotation or in a bad mismatch, and attack. It was the vision for Atlanta’s roster all along, with ball-handlers at every position, and it’s working now. We saw Young, Bogdanovic, Lou Williams, Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari all operate as the ball-handler in pick and roll, with Okongwu, John Collins and Clint Capela rolling to the rim. Tough to guard.
At the same time, in the fourth quarter, the Suns’ offense was basically just as bad. The Suns made just two (!!!!) field goals in the entire period, a Langston Galloway triple and a Jalen Smith layup. That’s about as ugly as it will get for any team in the NBA all year.
Tired legs will be an excuse for the Suns of course, after a long overtime game in Cleveland last night. But with Utah also winning today, Phoenix will fall behind for the No. 1 seed and face the Knicks at home next, which isn’t exactly cake.