And the Oscar goes to…The Phoenix Suns, for best first half performance in a game this season.
Of course there are two halves to an NBA game; and the Suns did just enough in quarters three and four to fend off the Atlanta Hawks for a 129-120 victory in front of 16,759 at US Airways Center on Sunday.
After matching a season-high with 40 first quarter points, the Suns scored 39 in the second for a grand total of 79, the most first half points scored by any team in the league this season and just two points shy of the arena record of 81.
Gerald Green scored 23 of his game-high 33 points in the first half. He made five of the Suns’ 12 first half three-pointers, putting the franchise mark of 22 within reach. They would finish with 15, tying a season-high.
“I have the easist job in the world, knocking down shots so I have to my credit to (my teammates),” said Green, one of five Suns players in double figures.
The Hawks, who have lost seven straight on the road and 11 of 12 overall, were just as good offensively.
All five Atlanta starters plus two bench players scored in double figures. Jeff Teague led the way with 29 points, making 14 of 21 shot attempts.
The Hawks shot 52.4 percent; the Suns, 55.0 percent.
“Sometimes there might look like there was zero defense out there, but I am sure the guys were trying hard,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
The win was the Suns second in a row, moving them percentage points ahead of Dallas for seventh place in the Western Conference.
The Suns improved to 14-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better.
The Suns set season highs in points (129), shooting percentage (55.0) and assists (29).
The Suns closed the first quarter on a 14-4 run, then opened the second quarter 6-2 for a combined 20-6 burst and 46-39 lead, one they would never relinquish.
Green recorded his third 30-point game of the season and the sixth of his career. He also set a new career-high with 10 free throws without a miss plus extended his career-long streak of scoring in double-digits to 11 games.
The Morris twins combined for 39 points and 17 rebounds. Markieff (21) has scored in double-digits in 21 of the last 22 games, including in each of the past nine. Marcus (18) finished a rebound shy of what would have been his first career double-double. The Suns are 16-5 this season when the Morris brothers score in double-digits.
Despite missing their top two leading scorers because of injury (Al Horford and Paul Millsap), the Hawks scored a Suns’ opponent season-high 37 first quarter points and came within a single point of matching an opponent season high for points scored in the first half (66, 2/5 at Houston) and within two points of matching an opponent season high for points scored in a game (122, 2/5 at Houston).
The Hawks scored 11 unanswered points, part of a 15-4 run that put them up 33-26 with 2:35 to play in the first quarter. The seven-point advantage was their largest of the game.
The Suns went six-plus minutes without a field goal as the Hawks went on a 17-5 run to pull to within a single point, 95-94 with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter.
The Suns allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent for the fourth time in five games.
Teague has scored at least 26 points in four straight games.
STAT OF THE GAME:
The Suns shot 55.0 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from three and 86.7 percent from the free throw line; marking the first time the Suns reached at least these percentages in each of these categories in the same game since March 23, 1989, when the Suns shot 58.1 percent from the field, 75.0 percent from three and 88.5 percent from the free throw line at Golden State in a 154-124 win.
FYI, Hornacek started for the Suns in that game and scored 20 points in addition to nine assists and five steals in 26 minutes.
HE SAID IT:
“Tough game. I think they are the fastest team in the NBA,” said Goran Dragic, who followed up his 40-point, five-assist performance Friday with 19 points, eight assists and a season-high tying two blocks. “They push the ball and I was kind of tired the first two minutes of the game. They have great players, they penetrate, they shoot from three; our defense was not so good but we were aggressive on offense and Gerald was huge for us, making some huge shots.”
Leandro Barbosa made his first appearance since February 19 when he sprained his toe against Boston. He finished with seven points (3-of-6 field goals) in 13 minutes.
Shavlik Randolph recorded his first Suns points after a Dragic pass between the legs of Elton Brand in the second quarter. He finished with two points (1-of-3 field goals), two rebounds and one steal in 10 minutes.
Kyle Korver’s first quarter three extended his run of at least one made 3-pointer to 127 consecutive games, which is the longest streak in NBA history. He finished with six threes in seven attempts to account for all of his 18 points.
Back in his home state for the first time as a head coach, Mike Budenholzer, a Holbrook native, had his mom, dad and sisters among others in attendance. “There’s going to be a pretty big family and friends section,” the first-year Hawks coach said before the game.
The Suns continue the four-game homestand with a visit from the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday, March 4. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
It’s the second of four meetings between the Pacific Division rivals. In the first match-up, the Suns won by 19 points (107-88), their largest win over a team 10-plus games over .500 since 2007 against Utah.
The Suns and Clippers play one another again in seven days with the Suns traveling to L.A. on March 10.