92Mar. 1, 2013
87US Airways Center
19 PTS, 6 AST, 3 STL
20 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
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Three-Pointers Help Suns to Third Straight Win
By: Stefan Swiat, Suns.comIf all good things come in threes, that was certainly true for the Suns this past week.
Not only did they capture their third win of the week with a 92-84 home win over the Hawks on Friday, but they drilled 10-of-22 three-pointers while doing so. Not only are they now riding the second-longest streak of their season, but they have improved to 4-3 since the All-Star break.
“It’s easy because they (the three-point shooters) spread the floor,” Suns point guard Goran Dragic said. “The defense didn’t want to help so much inside in the paint and then I could create more. And even those guys, when they were alone, were knocking down shots today.”
Dragic established the tone right of the gate by pouring in 10 first-quarter points. Phoenix would work itself out to a modest halftime lead before taking firm control of the game heading into the final period.
Reserve swingman Wesley Johnson drained 5-of-5 in the third quarter to total 13 big points before finishing with a season-high 15 on the night. Ahead by 11 at the end of the third, the Suns held on to capture their eighth win in 10 attempts against the Hawks.
While Dragic would go on to tally 19 points and six assists, the Morris twins came off the bench to provide a huge lift. Suns forward Marcus Morris posted his best effort with the Suns by scoring 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from downtown, while Suns power forward Markieff Morris added 11 points of his own.
Backup center Jermaine O’Neal was the final Sun in double figures with 12 points.
“We are feeling great right now,” Dragic said. “We are playing well defensively and offensively. We are sharing the ball.”
Phoenix was able to limit the effectiveness of Atlanta’s Al Horford. The Hawks center came into the contest averaging 25.4 points and 12.4 boards on 68-percent shooting in his last seven games, but was held to just 17 points and seven boards on 7-of-15 shooting.
The Suns’ defense also caused the Hawks to cough over the ball 21 times.
“(Coach Hunter) has been telling us to play defense like that,” Johnson said. “He wants us to get into guys like that. Everybody thinks that we’re a finesse team so showing that chippiness and edge that we showed is paying off.”
Phoenix will host Toronto on Wednesday.
Crafty left-handed point guards aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. In fact, when posed with the question of who Dragic most resembles, the Coach Hunter couldn’t recall another playmaker like the 6-3 Slovenian.
Despite defending a myriad of point guards during his 17 years in the NBA, he thought the best comparison was the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili.
“He’s like the point guard version of Ginobili,” Hunter said. “He’s left-handed and crafty like him.”
When Suns center Jermaine O’Neal totaled at least 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Warriors on February 20, it had been three years to the day since he had posted such a performance. Now, in the span of eight days, he’s uncorked that type of performance two times.
Against the Spurs on Wednesday, he racked up a season-high 22 points and a season-high-tying 13 rebounds in the Suns’ overtime win. It was his first 20-10 outing since he was playing for Miami on February 6, 2010.
In the past two games the Suns have not only forced overtime, but have gone on to capture the victory. During those 10 minutes of OT, the Suns held the Timberwolves to 2-of-8 shooting in the first game, while limiting the Spurs to 0-of-10 shooting in the second one.
“Our defense is going to be our focal point,” Hunter said. “That’s going to be our identity.”
Jump Ball Gala
Phoenix Suns Charities is hosting its 25th anniversary gala on Saturday, March 2 at Talking Stick Resort. The “Jump Ball” gala is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
For those who enjoy seeing rookies making fools of themselves, this is the event for you. The young Suns players will perform popular songs for the audience.
The Grammy Award-winning Pointer Sisters will also be performing, but the players usually end up being the starring act.
Dragic left the game with 4:44 in the third quarter with a lower right back bruise. He did not return, but believes he’ll be ready by Wednesday.
“I just lost my balance,” Dragic said. “I went too fast and I tried to bump him (Atlanta’s Jeff Teague) to get a foul because I thought he was going to try to block me. And it was just an awkward fall.”
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