5 takeaways from Phoenix Suns’ ugly 32-point loss to Atlanta Hawks

The Phoenix Suns knew what was coming Wednesday night.

Atlanta is ninth in the NBA in points per game, has one of the NBA’s best young talented backcourts and has athletes up and down the roster.

“They’re a talented bunch,” Suns guard Damion Lee said after the morning shootaround.

Hours later, the Hawks started fast and kept rolling to a 132-100 blasting of Phoenix before a sellout crowd of 17,071 at Footprint Center.

The Suns had won six of their previous seven games before suffering their worst margin of defeat this season.

Phoenix (27-26) trailed by as many as 43 points and never led.

Only Boston built a bigger lead on the season at 45 in an 125-98 crushing Dec. 9 in Phoenix.

Mikal Bridges paced the Suns with a game-high 23 points on 6-of-18 shooting (1-of-7 on 3s) while Deandre Ayton added 20 points and nine rebounds. The All-Star backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young led the Hawks with 21 and 20, respectively as Atlanta (26-26) had five players reach double figures.

Here are five takeaways as Phoenix begins a five-game road trip Friday against the NBA-leading Celtics. Sun’s All-Star Devin Booker is expected to make his return on the trip as early as that game after having not played since Christmas Day in Denver where he strained his left groin.

Ugly numbers

Largest deficit: 43

3-point shooting: 4-of-28.

Chris Paul: 1-of-6 field goals (0-of-3 from 3), three points, three assists, two turnovers.

Damion Lee: 3-of-11 field goals (0-for-4 from 3) 11 points.

Cam Johnson: 2-of-7 field goals (1-of-3 from 3), six points.

Allowed 31 Atlanta points off 16 turnovers.

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Uglier play

The Suns couldn’t stop the ball as the Hawks attacked Paul as they did Dallas.

Atlanta simply did whatever it wanted offensively in shooting 57.1% from the field (19-of-33 from 3).

Never felt the competitive edge on the defensive end from Phoenix and were out of position from the start.

Then offensively, the Suns couldn’t make a shot and were sloppy with the ball.

For a team that was playing so well, losing by this wide of a margin is unacceptable.

.500 records?

The Hawks have too much talent to have a .500 record.

There was the Nate McMillan-Trae Young drama. They’ve been looking to deal John Collins.

Just two seasons ago, Atlanta reached the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.

Feb 1, 2023;  Phoenix, Arizona, United States;  Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) shoots the ball over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) at Footprint Center.  Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic

With a young, exciting squad, the Hawks were supposed to keep rising.

They instead had to make their way out of the play-in only to earn them the eighth seed last season. Miami made quick work of them in the first round, 4-1.

The Hawks traded for Murray to pair him up with Young. The All-Star tandem is putting up numbers, but the team has struggled defensively.

Atlanta had its way with Phoenix, but just gave up 139 points to the Knicks last month and 137 last week at Oklahoma City.

Wednesday’s win will be another ok, but if Atlanta can’t follow up with wins and solid play.

Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson drives on Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Managing minutes

Suns coach Monty Williams said Johnson is on a minute restriction as he took him out with 7:42 left in the first quarter. Seemed a bit early even for a minute restriction.

The Suns are trying to manage the return of a player who needs minutes to find a rhythm with his shot for the long haul. He’s played between 33 (Jan. 26 vs. Dallas) and 15 minutes (Wednesday night vs. Atlanta) since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him 37 games.

They’re watching knee swelling that clearly could impact his shot. Johnson is 3-of-16 from the field in his last two games, going 2-of-9 from 3.

Williams Johnson anticipated having up-and-down efforts. He’s gone from back-to-back 20-point games to scoring a total of 25 points in his last three games.

The Suns probably played Johnson too many minutes early as he played 29 in his second game back against Memphis.

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Lastly, Booker’s return and trade deadline

He’ll be back during the road trip. Cameron Payne (foot) and Landry Shamet (foot) appear further away from returning, but who knows what Phoenix’s roster is going to look when the road trip is near the end.

The trade deadline is Feb. 9. The final game of the road trip is Feb. 10 in Indiana.

Booker will be a major boost, but he should be on some type of minutes restriction, too.

The Suns have been playing better, but how they handle this next wave of changes that could be major will set the tone for how they go into the All-Star break and come out of it.

Have an opinion on the current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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