After a couple of days off, the Hawks wiped the court with the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, winning 96-69 and clinching the best record in franchise history by notching their 58th win of the season.
“I’m very proud of our players and very proud of our organization,” said head coach Mike Budenholzer in his post game presser. “I’m very happy for our city. To have the most wins in franchise history, it’s important to take a moment and recognize the work of our players and the organization.”
The game started off with Al Horford missing an easy bunny at the rim, but the tides changed quickly as the Hawks responded with a 8-0 run to put a decent cushion between them and the Suns. The contest stayed relatively close for the remainder of the first half, which caused some chipiness between the two teams. Pero Antic, Mike Scott, DeMarre Carroll, Budenholzer, and Phoenix’s Markieff Morris all received technical fouls, mostly over displeasure over how the game was being officiated.
The Hawks survived that stretch and started pounding the Suns in the third quarter, resulting in more frustration for Phoenix, who saw the ejection of Eric Bledsoe after two quick technicals midway through the quarter. The loss of Bledsoe was the final straw for the Suns, as the team fell apart without the presence of the dynamic guard. The result was Phoenix only scoring 26 points in the second half and being limited to the second fewest points in their franchise history.
One of the big revelations in this game was the play of Mike Muscala, who was filling in for the injured Paul Millsap. Muscala made seven of his eight attempts from the field, scoring 16 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals. Muscala’s defense was also very fundamentally sound and he was a team-best plus-28 in just 26 minutes on the court.
“I thought he was good,” said DeMarre Carroll on Muscala. “He stepped up during this opportunity and work just as hard as the rest of us.”
Like Muscala, Carroll had a nearly perfect game from the field with an 8-for-9 effort. DeMarre was the team’s engine in the first quarter, connecting on all five of his shots in the first quarter. Carroll also had a hilarious lob attempt in the third quarter, where his pass overshot Mike Scott by about five feet. Carroll jokingly claimed after the game that it was Scott’s fault.
Speaking of lob dunks, Al Horford had a very flight-taking one thanks to Dennis Schröder. Schröder initially threw the pass a little high, but Horford skied to grab the ball with one hand and jam it home. Horford would finish with 14 points, five rebounds, and three dimes in 26 minutes.
The Hawks have a quick turnaround and will face the Nets tonight in Brooklyn. It will be interesting to see who the Hawks play with a lottery pick still at stake to gain from the Nets.