The Phoenix Suns looked poised to upset the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks on Friday, but in the end, the visiting team was just too strong.
The Suns put together impressive second and third quarters at US Airways Center, but the fourth belonged to the Hawks.
Led by Paul Millsap, Atlanta worked itself out of an eight-point deficit to start the quarter to nearly a double-digit lead.
The result was a 96-87 victory for the visiting Hawks, their 51st of the year. Phoenix missed out on an opportunity to keep its playoff hopes alive, falling to 34-33 on the season.
Here’s a look at Friday’s contest, by the numbers:
Phoenix center Alex Len played 24 and a half minutes, but he failed to score, missing all three of his field goal attempts. The worst part of his night was when he left the court in the fourth quarter with a right ankle injury and did not return. The second-year center did grab seven rebounds before leaving with the sprain, and he was the only Suns player to post a positive number (plus-12) in the plus-minus category.
The loss pushed Phoenix to three games back of New Orleans and Oklahoma City, the latter of which won Friday to force a two-way tie for the final Western Conference Playoff spot. Both the Pelicans and the Thunder have two more games to play than the Suns do before the regular season closes.
Suns guard Eric Bledsoe had a hot first half of 14 points in 16 minutes, but his seven turnovers on the night — four coming in the fourth quarter — were detrimental to Phoenix’s chances of an upset. The Suns finished with 18 giveaways in the game — including eight in the final quarter — while Atlanta had 11. Bledsoe ended up with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting with six assists.
Second-year guard Archie Goodwin was the only Suns player to excel off the bench Friday. He only shot 2-for-8 from the floor, but he finished with nine points and a season-high six rebounds. The 6-foot-5 guard also had a highlight rejection and an alley-oop pass that was finished off by Brandan Wright — both plays happening in the second half. Goodwin had two blocks and two assists on the evening.
The Hawks (51-14) turned the tide early in the fourth quarter with a 19-4 run, transforming an eight-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. The run was capped by unanswered three-pointers by Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore. Atlanta humbled the Suns in the final quarter with a 31-14 advantage in scoring.
The Morris brothers started on the front line for Phoenix and combined for exactly 40 points. Markieff Morris followed up a 24-point performance against Minnesota with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. He stuffed the stat sheet in other ways, tallying seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a season-high five steals. Marcus Morris only shot 7-for-18 from the floor, but ended up with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists.
The Suns shot a solid 10-for-26 (38.5 percent) from behind the three-point line, but they didn’t do much better from the floor overall, finishing at 32-for-78 (41.0 percent). Atlanta went 8-for-18 (44.4 percent) from downtown, and 47 percent overall.
Phoenix notched a rare win in the rebounds battle: 45-38, including 11-7 in offensive boards. P.J. Tucker led the home team with nine boards. However, the Suns’ 32 points in the paint were dwarfed by Atlanta’s 52.