Although football has become the traditional sport to watch on Thanksgiving, the NBA didn’t completely give up on playing turkey day games until 2011. As a matter of fact, in the NBA’s early years they played on Thanksgiving a lot but when the 80’s rolled around, they gave up on T-day games for a little more than a decade until bringing a few back between 1993 and 2010.
The Phoenix Suns only got in on some of those early games back in the 70’s but they have a positive record (4-2) all-time in them. Their first was in 1970 when Phoenix fans got a 126-115 win over the Seattle SuperSonics to be thankful for. It was a seesaw battle in the 1st half with the Suns taking a slim 60-59 lead at halftime. 29 points by Connie Hawkins and a 25 point, 12 assist double-double from the Original Sun, Dick Van Arsdale, powered the Suns on to an 11-point win in the 2nd half though. Paul Silas (16) and Neal Walk (14) combining for a total of 30 rebounds between them didn’t hurt either.
The following two years, the Suns continued to host turkey day games at the Madhouse where they added two more wins, both against the Detroit Pistons, 122-103 and 128-122. The 19-point win over the Pistons in 1971 was also the Suns’ biggest T-day win. In the 128-122 win in 1972, the Suns were actually down 58-56 at the half but the Suns outscored the Pistons 43-27 in the 3rd to take a commanding lead that they rode the rest of the game to earn the win. Sun Charlie Scott had a very impressive triple-double in this one scoring 42 points, dishing out 15 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Suns skipped playing the following year and but then played again at home in 1974 when they suffered their first T-day loss to Portland in a low scoring but close 88-85 game. The Suns got off to an early 26-19 lead at the end of the 1st quarter but couldn’t hang on for the win, largely due to the Blazers getting awarded 38 free throw attempts (they made 28) compared to just 16 (11 makes) for the Suns. Sound familiar, Suns fans?
In 1976. they returned to their T-day winning ways by sending the Washington Bullets out of Phoenix with a 104-98 loss tucked into their belts. The Suns were down 13 points at the half in this one but got all that back and more in an exciting 3rd quarter where they outscored the Bullets 36-16. That Bullets team featured THREE future Hall of Famers - Elvin Hayes, Dave Bing and Wes Unseld - in their starting lineup which made the comeback win by the Suns even more impressive.
In 1977, the Suns played their first T-day road game which unfortunately turned out to be a 97-82 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was the Suns worst T-day loss and their last T-day game. Neither team shot particularly well during the 1st half and at halftime the score was tied at just 38-38. The Suns’ shooting woes continued in the second half but Cleveland’s did not giving them a 15-point win.
This year, no NBA teams will be playing today but we can at least still be thankful that the Suns made it to this point atop the Western Conference standings with an 11-6 record. Not quite as good as last seasons’ 14-3 record but still pretty damn good considering all the injuries they’ve dealt with. And although last year the Suns set a team record for the most wins in a season with 64, their win/loss percentage at T-day (.823) wasn’t actually their best all-time at that point. In fact, it was only their 4th best. Tied for their all-time best T-day winning percentage are the 2004-05 and 2007-08 Suns teams, both getting to that point with identical 10-2 records (.833). Third best goes to the 1980-81 Suns who had a 19-4 record (.826) on T-day.
What’s the worst T-day record in Suns history you might ask? That dubious honor belongs to the 1996-97 Suns that were 1-13 (.071) on T-day. Ouch. Not a lot for fans to be thankful for on T-day that year. At least that team managed to eventually turn things around to finish 40-42 and sneak into the playoffs, largely due to a late season 11-game win streak between March 20 and April 10. Hopefully that’s one Suns record that will never be broken.
Although there is no Suns basketball for us to enjoy today, all of us here at BSotS hope all of you are still having a great Thanksgiving!