Though the Beasts of the East (Miami Heat and Boston Celtics) have been stealing most of the headlines in this early part of the NBA season, the Atlanta Hawks went into yesterday's game against the Phoenix Suns without a loss.
That streak ended, as the Suns held on down the stretch for an exciting 118-114 road win that we enjoyed from start to finish.
Phoenix presented great match-up problems for the Hawks, what with obviously superior team speed and more depth (Atlanta was missing some rotation players due to injury), and was up by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.
The Hawks fought back and tied the game at 106, and it seemed at that point as if all was about to be lost for the Suns and their opportunity to beat a very solid playoff-bound team.
But Phoenix is a professional, well-coached outfit, though the team is unlikely to have the horses to compete for an NBA championship months down the road,
The Suns hung on, and a big road win was theirs.
We didn't realize how good the Hawks' Al Horford--30 points, 10 rebounds, one turnover, five assists--has become. No longer will he be flying under the proverbial radar, at least ours.
As usual, Phoenix spread the court, sometimes positioning all five players for possible three-point attempts (the locals hit 11 of 23 treys, a tremendous effort).
Steve Nash's line also was a beaut, with nineteen points, fifteen assists and just two turnovers in 33 hard minutes on the floor. His four straight free throws in the final minutes with the game on the line were huge, yet predictable.
Nash is still so good so much of the time that it's scary. One of the best ever at what he does.
We're lucky to have him here--really.
The Suns play the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in the second of back-to-back road games. In a scheduling quirk, it's Phoenix's second game against Memphis in a matter of days--remember the double-overtime thriller last week?
Channel 45 will air tonight's contest, which is set for a 6 p.m. tipoff.