Quick Thought: Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend.
This is the third straight game where the box score doesn't look as much of a whitewash as the game did.
Joe Johnson and Josh Smith = 12/25, 35 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals.
Suns had a whopping seven attempted free throws. Seven! The Hawks were 18/21, getting 12 more points from the line than their victorious guests.
It sure looked like the Phoenix bigs were routing the Hawks for offensive rebounds. The Suns had 10 offensive rebounds and scored nine second chance points while the Hawks grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored 16 second chance points.
The great Steve Nash surely led a transition assault on the Hawks, right? Hawks 18, Suns 8.
Well then, it had to be turnovers. Suns 15, Hawks 7.
Well, what the heck happened?
It boiled down to this: The Hawks stood flatfooted on both sides of the floor while the Suns got open looks through crisp, quick ball movement. In a related story, the Hawks did a lot of dribbling and soloing tonight.
The result? The Suns shot over 57 percent through the first three quarters of the game while building a 20 point lead over the Hawks and only a spirited run by the Hawks scrubeenies forced the Suns starters back onto the floor to close out the game late.
Said Joe Johnson, "I think that our effort defensively -- I mean, we had a lot of breakdowns -- guys just not getting out to their man. In this league, guys getting wide open shots -- Nine times out of 10 they're going to make that."
Phoenix had six different players knock down threes as they shot 11-24 from that range. The Hawks, meanwhile, couldn't make shots when they even as open as the Suns were most of the night, missing 18 of their 24 shots from out there.
Johnson again, "I think we just didn't have great ball movement. In a situation when you get down, guys tried to do it themselves, and we had a lot of that tonight."
Phoenix also snuffed out many Hawk attempts to take it inside, blocking eight shots and stripping the Hawks of many other drives to the hoop. The Suns didn't need to come inside to get blocked or foul as they were plenty hot from the outside.
The Suns first big run came when the bench fully took the court and laid a considerable egg, sending the Hawks down double digits quickly. But then the starters came back and clicked off an energetic 21-9 run to bring the Hawks down four with four seconds left.
Then Steve Nash took the inbounds pass and ran all the way to the top of the three point circle, hopped on one leg and hit a buzzer beating three that noticeably took the air out of Philips Arena.
Final Thoughts and Quotes:
It was a third home loss in a row after a historically good road trip, but Joe Johnson reminded me of a simple fact that those teams weren't good, and these teams have been:
"This is a test for us -- a challenge. You know the wins we got, to get to 16 wins, it was really no more than 3-4 quality teams during that stretch. We've been playing some quality teams lately. The teams we beat on the road, they were way under .500."
On Nash's buzzer beater and its impact:
"Well, I wouldn't say it took a lot out of us. We were way down and was still down seven. But third quarter, it seems as though we don't come out ready to play."
Says Larry Drew, "We just didn't stop the ball. He got across half court and got a good look at it. You have to defend until the horn and we didn't do that there."
"They stayed solid for 48 minutes -- something that we didn't do."
"There were some loose balls we didn't get to -- defensively we gave up more than 50 percent and anytime you do that, you're going to struggle. That was the key."
(On Nash's buzzer beater) "I thought we did pretty good job to get the score down below 10 points before the half. He's shooting on one foot, shooting three --you live with that."
"Again, that's why against the good teams you have to be solid and show the extra effort if you want to win the game."