PHOENIX SUNS

Suns’ 3-point shooting, bench outburst outweigh turnovers in win vs. shorthanded Hawks

Mar 22, 2024, 12:07 AM | Updated: 5:14 am

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns put enough weight on both ends of the scale to keep the Atlanta Hawks in Thursday’s game at Footprint Center, but ultimately a season-high for 3-pointers and a stellar game from their bench outweighed the negatives in a 128-115 victory.

Phoenix (41-29) hit 22-of-41 triples, knocking down 10 more 3-pointers than Atlanta (31-39) with the ball zipping around to create great looks for shooters.

That’s tied for the third-most made 3s in franchise history.

“Point-five mindset,” head coach Frank Vogel called it. “Every game is different. You play against a switching team, then you got to have your terminators go and kill. This team tonight was bringing two to the ball and all the five-man action. So some nights it’s easier than others. Get the ball moving quickly and get around the horn and open up the three-point line.”

The bench contributed to the success from downtown with its best game of the season, as Vogel put it. Spearheaded by 21 points for Eric Gordon and 14 for Royce O’Neale, Phoenix’s bench outscored Atlanta’s 47-26, much needed depth on the second night of a back-to-back.

The duo hit a combined 8-of-12 3s while taking advantage of the open looks, although Gordon’s range was seemingly unlimited on Thursday.

Center Drew Eubanks provided terrific energy and had a sizable role in the second half after Jusuf Nurkic went to the locker room after taking a shot to the face in the third quarter. Nurkic re-entered in the fourth, but Eubanks blocked three shots and added seven points in 16 minutes.

“We’ve had some other really good (games), but can’t tip my cap to those guys enough; they get the game ball collectively,” Vogel said.

The Hawks — without three starters including Trae Young — still managed to stay competitive down five with four minutes remaining, but the Suns closed the game on a 13-5 run and beat Atlanta 32-22 in the fourth quarter. Devin Booker iced the game with a trio of 3-pointers late, and he finished with a game-high 30 points.

Grayson Allen blocked Hawks center Clint Capela in the lane, which led to a Kevin Durant tough runner which started the separation at 107-100. Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray — who was terrific with one rebound shy of a 29-point triple-double — smacked Bradley Beal in the head while driving to the hoop the other way, prompting a Flagrant 1.

Booker hit the three triples in the final three minutes of the game.

The math worked out in Phoenix’s favor, but it turned the ball over 17 times after 23 giveaways in a win against the 76ers on Wednesday.

Four Suns turnovers in the first six minutes aided a blazing start for Atlanta, which went up 25-11 to open the game leading to boos from the home crowd.

Many of the errors were unforced, a common sight at this point for a team that entered Thursday No. 25 in the NBA in turnovers per game and turnover percentage.

“Our guys are really looking to extra pass the basketball, which is how we want to play, which is who we want to be,” Vogel said. “We just got to do it with with more care.”

“I would say shoot more, especially in the paint,” Booker explained. “Avoid those passes in the paint, those low bounce passes. Be more aggressive, look to score the ball.”

Phoenix also had to manage without Booker for nearly a quarter’s length of time in the second half after he picked up a fifth foul midway through the third period. It also was not Durant’s night shooting the ball at 5-for-15 (19 points).

Beal only finished with 12 points on seven shot attempts, but Vogel credited him with setting up many of the open shots and taking on the task of defending Murray for most of the night. Beal was far and away the best starter via plus/minus at plus-17.

Phoenix closed the night dead even with the Dallas Mavericks for the sixth and seventh spots in the Western Conference with 12 games left on the slate. The Suns’ next two games are at the San Antonio Spurs.

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