Sunsí Blinding Start Too Much for Hawks
Phoenix 112, Atlanta 94
PHOENIX, Dec. 4 (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson played well in his return to the desert. He just didn't get enough help.
Johnson scored 23 points but his Atlanta Hawks were quieted 112-94 by the Phoenix Suns, who rolled to their sixth straight win behind a balanced effort.
Johnson, who received a five-year, $70 million deal, was impressive against his former mates, making 9-of-16 shots despite sitting out the final period. Unfortunately, his teammates made just 10-of-43 shots, digging the Hawks an 88-51 hole through three quarters.
"The losing is tough and it is very difficult right now," Johnson said. "(But) if I could do it all over again, I would make the same decision."
Johnson was loudly booed when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup and every time he touched the ball.
"It was kind of fun," Johnson said. "I always expect the worst, so that was expected and it gave me an adrenaline rush. Every time if I come here and I can get that, I appreciate it."
"Joe is a nice, quiet guy. That is tough for him to get that kind of a reception," Suns guard Steve Nash said. "It is nice to see our fans are passionate. It is often misleading to know exactly why somebody chooses to go into a different situation. Sometimes people don't realize all the factors."
Phoenix's offense and defense had no problems as Shawn Marion scored nine of his 20 points in the first quarter. Reserves James Jones, who scored a season-high 20 points, and Eddie House each had five in the opening period as the Suns took a 25-10 lead.
"I have been struggling a lot," Jones said. "I am a creature of habit. For so long in this league, I have been told when to shoot and when not to shoot, and now I have total freedom. It's like a kid in the candy store who gets his first dollar and he doesn't know what to spend it on and you get confused. I get out there and I am a little hesitant and my teammates yell at me."
The 10 points were the fewest allowed by Phoenix in any quarter this season as it held an opponent under 100 points for the eighth straight game.
"You got to put the clamps on a team that is struggling," Marion said. "We came out of the gate early tonight and got the game over with. We kept the lead up all night. They couldn't get anything going, which made it a lot easier."
"We did the job the first three quarters," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It was important to keep the pressure on them. We are getting so much more solid defensively that we can do that."
The 6-8 Diaw collected 14 points, nine assists and four blocks for the Suns, who were never challenged after the first period.
Aside from Johnson's effort, Atlanta's starters combined to score just 10 points as the team dropped to 2-14 on the season.
"I thought Joe came out ready to play but we didn't have any help around him starting the game," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Our younger guys felt some frustration. That happens."
Marvin Williams, the No. 2 pick in last summer's draft, did post season highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes.