The Phoenix Suns would fail to respond or resist to the energy and attack of the high-octane Atlanta Hawks offense, conceding 40 points in the second quarter, followed by 36 in the third, and falling behind by as much as 43. Inversely, their offense couldn’t scrape together more than 25 points in a quarter until it was ultimately out of reach in the fourth, losing 100-132.
1.) Offensive Process
Not uncommon, but the manner in which they went about it was questionable, was the Suns hunting out Trae Young within their offense for stretches in the first half.
Young started the game guarding Cam Johnson, which is an obvious mismatch, but one the Hawks were willing to concede because of Johnson’s unlikeliness to go one-on-one in isolation.
The Suns would involve him directly in an array of their off-ball screening actions, to which he met with energy and activity that disrupted the entire flow of the Suns half-court offense.
They were taken so far out of their offense that rhythm, and up against the Hawks set defense so frequently, that it was a struggle to have to resurface and this resulted in an offensive rating of just 82.1 in the first quarter, and 96.0 in the second quarter.
“I think we was missing shots as well, but defense is tough. Them making shots and they setting their defense and stuff. That is always tough,” said Mikal Bridges postgame.
“Usually their best offense is getting stops on the defensive end. It is tough when you are not getting that many stops and you’re not making shots. Yeah, it was just one of them nights. Got to watch film, and we are going to see them again soon. We got to get ready for Boston and get ready for them.”
This was heavily aided by their inability to sustain success on the defensive end, which we’ll get to next, as the Hawks only saw a Suns set defense 74.7% of the time, which on a season scale would rank 86th percentile for least time spent against a set defense, not good.
In addition to minimum production from three-fifths of the starting lineup, you see why the results were so drastic.
Phoenix would finish with their third-worst offensive half-court efficiency rating, of 73.4 points per 100 plays, which ranks in the frigid second percentile this season.
2.) Defensive Woes
In tandem with their offensive issues, and sometimes stemming from shot selection, were a litany of defensive issues.
The Hawks were +16.8 in points per 100 possessions in transition last night. That mark ranks 100th percentile as the league-best mark in a single game on the season.
They’d do so on a frequency of transition opportunities that ranks 90th percentile.
Whether it was off of live ball turnovers from the Suns, or off of rebounds, the transition defense of the Suns was completely undone time and time again.
Efforts to get back weren’t consistent, and they exacerbated that struggle to either put pressure on or contain the ball and/or withhold their defensive shell in their base of drop coverage, in the half-court.
“When we are at our best is when we’re getting into the ball,” said Monty Williams. “The bigs can stay back (in drop) and we’re forcing tough twos and we don’t have to help off of the shooters in the corner so just one of those things that we have to be much better at.”
Atlanta was able to consistently keep them in rotation out of this scenario, via their prolific pick-and-roll play, then maintained play within the advantage of a rotating defense, on repeat.
Specifically, Young, who generated paint touch after paint touch, and Murray (a combined 20 assists) picked the Suns defense apart with the pass, playing a big part in the Hawks having four players at 13+ points before the start of the fourth.
“Hats off to him (Trae Young) on that. He was just reading and adapting to our coverages,” said Deandre Ayton postgame. “He accepted that he wasn’t going to get his floater early in the game. He got his guys going which opened it up for him later in the game.”
Credit to them for their offensive process and consistency setting advantages to then play off of, with rhythm.
Still, the Suns failed to put up much resistance on either end of the floor in the middle quarters, as their scheme was continuously busted and the offensive process faltered amidst the struggles.
Up Next: The Suns begin a five-game east coast swing, starting with the league-best 37-15 Boston Celtics.
Over the last two weeks, they’ve gone 4-3, with the 22nd-ranked offense (112.3) and the fourth-best defense (108.7).