Ten observations from watching Suns 104, Hawks 103 on TV . . .
1. The Hawks seemed on their way to a good start to the West trip before blowing a 12-point lead over the final five minutes. Hawks miscues included two missed free throws by Miles Plumlee, a charging foul against Dennis Schroder and an inexplicable foul on Kent Bazemore against Devin Booker on a three-point attempt. Booker made all three for a 102-101 Suns lead with 12.3 seconds, and then Marquesse Chriss blocked Taurean Prince’s lob dunk attempt. After Phoenix got the loose ball and made two free throws, Schroder made a terrible decision by coming back down and scoring a layup instead of looking for a three.
2. Until the defensive gaffe, Bazemore was having a fantastic game: 20 points on eight shots, four assists, four steals, five turnovers. The Suns are loose with the ball, which meant Bazemore got plenty of chances to stalk the passing lanes, and he took advantage. Before tonight’s games Bazemore’s 2.3 steals per 36 minutes were second to Paul George (2.4) among players with at least 1,000 minutes played.
3. Ersan Ilyasova’s shooting kept the Hawks afloat during a third-quarter lull. He had another efficient and productive night: 21 points on 15 shots, nine rebounds. Ilyasova has been pretty consistent for the last month.
4. John Collins didn’t get many chances on screen-rolls and had just five rebounds in 20 minutes. The Suns did a good job getting bodies on him when shots went up so he couldn’t get boards with his usual quick jumps. Coach Mike Budenholzer went with Plumlee (27 minutes) instead of Collins down the stretch.
5. Weirdly, for much of the game Schroder didn’t seem to want to play fast against an opponent that is eager to do so. Schroder delivered 16 points after halftime but, on the key charging foul, he went into the lane against Phoenix’s collapsing defense and didn’t seem to look for his teammates.
6. Marco Belinelli had the kind of night you’d expect against the bench players on a bad defensive team: 16 points on 11 shots. Belinelli scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting during an eight-minute run during the first half.
7. After breaking out of a recent slump with 9-for-13 three-point shooting over the past two games, Prince (nine points on 14 shots) was 1-for-7 tonight. He didn’t have many slashes to the basket, either.
8. The Isaiah Taylor-Malcolm Delaney pairing gave the second unit a good defensive backcourt. Both players apply good ball pressure and cover a lot of ground. Before tonight, Taylor and Delaney’s 97.7 defensive rating in 177 minutes as a pair was second-best among Hawks duos who’ve played at least 100 minutes together.
9. Plumlee (six points on five shots) was a deterrent at the rim but probably could have been more assertive offensively against an opponent that wasn’t paying him much mind. Plumlee can finish around the basket and sets solid screens.
10. Phoenix’s first-half comeback was led by talented young guard Booker (34 points on 17 shots). He’s good scoring instincts and skills. The Hawks controlled him better after halftime with extra defensive attention. They never did get a handle on T.J. Warren (31 points on 21 shots).