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With a set rotation, the Suns make a little more sense

Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) passes around Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Nailing down the Phoenix Suns’ problems hasn’t been easy through 19 games.

Doing so might cause, as coach Earl Watson likes to say, “paralysis from analysis.”

From the lineups to the up-and-down effort between quarters, the lack of consistency overall might be simple enough to blame. Injuries to center Tyson Chandler and forward T.J. Warren haven’t helped when it comes to determining the problems to uncover solutions. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said as much Wednesday before Phoenix’s 109-107 win against the Atlanta Hawks.

“We want to see how our team looks when we have everybody,” he told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo.

Speaking of the win that brings the Suns to 6-13 on the year, it hardly made sense itself.

But a more fluid rotation did. And maybe it will lead to stability in play from team down to individual.

Off the bench, Brandon Knight was the leading scorer, dropping 23 points in 31 minutes thanks to 8-of-9 shooting from the foul stripe to offset his 33 percent accuracy from the floor.

Combined, the Suns trio of guards — Knight, Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe — shot a miserable 16-of-48, also 33 percent. They collectively allowed Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder to record a career-high of 31 points to go with his nine assists.

At a macro level, the struggling Hawks shot 51 percent to the Suns’ 45, hit just one less three, were even on the boards, in paint scoring and scored 29 points off just 15 Phoenix turnovers. Long story short, the Suns lost everything but the turnover battle (20-15) and scoring at the foul stripe, where they were a plus-11 on the Hawks.

No matter it all, the Suns looked quite functional and in tune with one another.

By the eye test, Watson’s rotation looked more stable than it had in past games. The mix of veterans and youngsters balanced both starting and bench units. For just the third time this year, Knight earned 30-plus minutes when he got out to a hot start. And Leandro Barbosa’s brief stint in the fourth quarter helped the Suns pull away by double-digits before the Hawks rallied.

“I thought Earl did a great job subbing — right before they could make their run we made a couple subs right before guys were getting tired,” Jared Dudley said after scoring 17 points and accounting for three triples. “I thought the flow of the game was perfect; I just thought the guys responded. Right when the guys made a couple of mistakes, (he) made a couple timeouts.”

Could it be coincidence or is there something to the team just turning it over 15 times on a night the rotations were so smooth?

The shot selection was good, and a 48 percent outing from the three-point line came as Phoenix hunted open treys against a tired Atlanta team on the end of a five-game road trip and without its best player in Paul Millsap.

Maybe the answer to Phoenix’s woes come in Watson settling on a rotation and a healthy-enough roster allowing him to do so.

“Our entire second unit had a good flow going. We were making good shots, moving the ball and getting stops,” Knight told the media. “We just got to try to continue to be consistent with that.

“Just knowing, knowing and kind of trying to have a feel for how Coach is going to play us and sub us and stuff like that, that’s getting more and more evident.”


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