Hawks defeat NBA-best Phoenix Suns 135-103

With the starters sitting the entire fourth quarter, the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Phoenix Suns 135-103 at State Farm Arena on Wednesday night.

The contributions came from everywhere: seven Hawks scored in double-figures. As a team, the Hawks shot 63% from the field, made half of their 26 threes and only missed two of their 18 free throws.

With Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter out, the Hawks are still not at full-strength yet. But it didn’t matter against the team with the best record in the league entering the night: Atlanta’s bench scored 74 points.

Clint Capela led the way with his double-double scoring 18 points along with 10 rebounds. He was 8-11 from the field and also blocked two shots. Trae Young scored 16 points and finished with 12 assists. 

Young only took 12 shots, insisting on distributing the ball in just 26 minutes. With the low minutes, he still orchestrated the offense well with only one turnover. 

Bogdan Bogdanovic had an efficient game from three as he drilled another four three-pointers en route to 16 points. He also had six assists, two steals and two blocks in just 24 minutes. 

Onyeka Okongwu made his presence felt, with a dominant fourth quarter (which the Hawks opened on an 18-0 run). In one of his best games, the fourth overall pick from the 2020 NBA draft scored 14 points––including this ferocious slam dunk over two Suns defenders––grabbed seven rebounds, and grabbed seven rebounds and three steals. 

After the game, Hawks head coach Nate McMillan praised the young Okongwu.

“He did a really good job tonight on both ends of the floor,” McMillan said. “Setting screens, playing off of [Danilo Gallinari] and Lou [Williams]. I thought he was really the difference in the game tonight.

Okongwu echoed McMillan and felt that tonight gave him a good step forward, despite missing 23 games this season from injuries.

“A game like that gives a big confidence boost and I just have to play like that every game,” Okongwu said. 

Atlanta hit the 30-assist mark for the second-straight game, and the once-struggling team in the first half of the season is beginning to have fun at the right time. They share the ball, and they have fun while playing great basketball in the process. It marked the first time since 1965 that the team scored 135 points without a single 20-point scorer when the team was still in St. Louis. 

“It was really a team effort, and the guys did well executing the game plan. We knew they were a dangerous team, and we wanted to defend home court,” McMillan said.  

The Suns only had two players in double-figures, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges. Booker scorched the Hawks for 30 points, but the supporting cast didn’t provide much help. Bridges scored 18 points on 6-9 shooting. The next highest-scorer on the team was Chris Paul, who pitched in just nine points on 3-11 shooting. 

McMillan’s stout defensive plan was successful. 

“We had to play team defense and be connected. We wanted to keep pressure on them defensively, and offensively we were looking to attack when we had something going,” McMillan said. 

Phoenix was coming off the second game of a back-to-back, and it showed: they shot 41% from the field and couldn’t grab a rebound, losing the battle of the boards by 16. A potential playoff-seed-deciding win for a young, injury-bugged Hawks team, that is in the midst of a four-team playoff race, to say the least.

The Hawks travel to face the Indiana Pacers on Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, with an 8 p.m. EST tip-off time.