RECAP: Suns 129, Hawks 120

David Vertsberger —  March 3, 2014

FINAL

PHX(35-24) 129 – 120 (26-32)ATL

Key Performers:
G. Green (PHX): 33 pts, 3 reb
J. Teague (ATL): 29 pts, 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl
[FULL BOX SCORE]

That looked a little too much like a video game. Threes were being jacked up to no end (55 combined), Gerald Green defied every physical law in the book and the final score was reminiscent of an All-Star game. The Hawks were on the wrong end of this barnburner, falling victim to their own poor transition defense and allowing Phoenix to get out to an early first half lead. In the third quarter, the law of averages caught up to the Suns, who finally began missing some wide open looks. Atlanta cut their deficit to just one before subsequently giving up a 7-1 run, eventually keeping out of reach through the fourth quarter. There were some bright spots, however. Mike Muscala made his NBA debut, Jeff Teague had another strong offensive outing and in general the Hawks challenged a Western Conference Playoff team without their two best players, as well as Pero Antic.

Reaction grades [assessed 0-10]:

Jeff Teague: In arguably his best game of the season, Jeff Teague dropped 29 points, had nine assists and collected six boards on 14-21 shooting from the field. What stood out was ultimately what he’s lacked when playing badly: aggressiveness. Teague was pedal to the medal, heading all the way to the basket at every opportunity. A look at the shot chart confirms what my eye test saw, Teague took few jumpers. Four to be exact, with two around the free throw line. Teague also came up with a huge block on Shavlik Randolph in the closing quarter, topping off an inspiring performance by the enthused Teague. 10/10

DeMarre Carroll: Carroll was a bit out of place tonight, with the Suns pace seemingly being too much for him to handle. He wasn’t able to cause as much havoc on the defensive end as he normally does, but the major issue was on the offensive side of the ball. The up-and-down flow of the game had Carroll trying to do things with the basketball he shouldn’t, even though his statistics didn’t prove to be too poor at all: 3-5 shooting, 10 points. This just wasn’t Carroll’s cup of tea. 5/10

Kyle Korver: The streak is off to 126, as Kyle got that problem out of the way rather early. He hit four threes against the Celtics and finished with 17 points overall. He also had a weird, Dream Shake-ish looking up-and-under in the third quarter that I didn’t even know Kyle was capable of doing. 7/10

Elton Brand: Brand’s lack of mobility indirectly lead to the extra help by his teammates leading to the barrage of Phoenix treys, but he didn’t struggle with defending the interior when in the right spot or nailing his short mid-range jumpers. Brand was actually second on the team in +/- with a +2, scoring 13 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out four assists. 8/10

Mike Scott: Scott picked up the shooting slack with Millsap out of commission tonight, putting up a wholesome 18 field goal tries – half of which were threes – in a whopping 40 minutes of action. He connected on eight shots to finish with 20 points, a strong outing considering he’s taken this many shots in a game just once before in his entire career. He also contributed with 5 rebounds and 3 steals. 8/10

Mike Muscala: Let’s talk about Mike Muscala’s debut! But first: It was his debut. His first basketball game in the National Basketball Association. Let’s not dig too deep into it. Hope that goes without saying. Muscala seemed to have the rookie jitters, looking to put up a shot nearly every time the ball touched his hands. No surprise here, but this also exhibits a bit of confidence from the youngster, which is good to see. His jumpshot could definitely become a big threat, outside of that we didn’t see much of what he could do on offense. Defensively, Muscala was pretty mobile and his length carries loads of potential. He didn’t carelessly swat at shot attempts, instead going for verticality on what looked like every attack by the opponents. Although this didn’t always work, the I.Q. on that end was noticeable and is in the long run a good sign. Muscala played 19 minutes, grabbed five boards and blocked two shots. cautious optimism/10

Lou Williams: Lou got his points efficiently through the charity stripe tonight, scoring 15 points on just seven field goal tries in his 25-minute outing tonight. He wasn’t able to contribute very much defensively, either getting beat or lost in transition. 5/10

Shelvin Mack: Mack was his steady self tonight in a game that mimicked nonstop chaos. He scored 11 points on 5-11 shooting in 17 minutes, turning the ball over just once. 7/10

Dennis Schröder: Played two minutes. INC/10

Mike Budenhozler: Coach Bud deserves a lot of credit for making this a game with the few pieces he had. Clearly instructing his team to put up a ton of threes to try and trump Phoenix with their own medicine, the strategy nearly pulled through if not for the porous defense. It may be too tall of a task for a head coach on his own, but the lack of communication killed the Hawks when guarding the break. Budenholzer’s use of Muscala was especially intriguing, running pick-and-pop sets for the rookie that will probably end up being his bread and butter. 7/10

The opposition: They hit 15 threes en route to 129 points and got an immaculate performance out of Gerald Green, who scored 33 points on 14 field goal attempts. It really can’t get much better than that when Goran Dragic isn’t dominating the opposition like the All-Star he should be and Eric Bledsoe is still out with injury.7.5/10

Next: Atlanta at Portland, Wednesday, March 5th

David Vertsberger

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