PHOENIX (AP)—The Phoenix Suns opened the season with a 30-point blowout of Atlanta. Whether it showed how good the Suns can be, or how bad the Hawks are, remains to be seen.
Amare Stoudemire scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half, and the Suns raced past the Hawks 112-82 on Wednesday night.
“It was pretty easy,” Stoudemire said. “Atlanta’s not the best team we’re going to play against. But we’re going to get points. We’re going to score the ball.”
Stoudemire also had eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Joe Johnson scored 17 and Steve Nash had 12 points in his Suns debut. Shawn Marion added 10 points and nine boards. All four sat out the final quarter.
Casey Jacobsen also scored 10 points in a game that turned into a rout in the second quarter. The Suns led by as many as 40, 95-55, in the fourth.
Yuta Tabuse came into the contest with 10 minutes left to become the first Japanese-born player to play in an NBA game. The 5-foot-9 point guard scored seven points, including a 3-pointer that put Phoenix up 100-64 with 4:58 to play.
Both Nash, the playmaker signed away from Dallas as a free agent, and coach Mike D’Antoni downplayed the significance of the blowout, which followed a 7-1 preseason. The Suns play their next four on the road, beginning in Philadelphia on Friday.
“We’re a young team. We’re a long way from being a finished product,” Nash said. “We’ve got to build a team, and this road trip will be a part of that. We’ve got to learn together, especially on the road, so it’s an early test for us.”
D’Antoni liked the energy his team showed, but knows it’s just the first of 82 games.
“I don’t think we’ve really had a test yet,” D’Antoni said. “Preseason is preseason, and tonight we beat a young team that’s just getting together. We’ve got four games on the road, and that’s going to set a little bit of a tone.”
Antoine Walker scored 21 points on 9-of-22 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds for Atlanta. Al Harrington added 13 but made just four of 16 shots in an ugly head coaching debut for Mike Woodson, a former Detroit Pistons coach hired to help rebuild the sputtering Hawks franchise. Rookie Josh Childress scored 12 in his NBA debut.
“They (the Suns) played hard,” Woodson said. “They’ve got a lot of offensive weapons, but we didn’t compete, and that’s disheartening.”
The Suns shot 61 percent (27-for-44) in the first half, outscoring the Hawks 36-12 the second quarter to open up a 64-35 lead at the break.
“We just got sloppy. We didn’t make shots. We got a little frustrated and turned the ball over in the second quarter,” Walker said. “You’re not going to come back from 30 against anyone in this league.”
Phoenix capped a 17-2 run to go up 60-31 when Marion grabbed his own miss and scored with 2:33 left in the half. The surge featured a spectacular play by Stoudemire, who grabbed a loose ball with one hand, then made a quick move to the hoop for a ferocious dunk.
“That’s a little skill I added to my repertoire,” Stoudemire said.
He also made several jump shots from 10 to 19 feet.
“If my jumper’s automatic, there’s no way they can stop me,” Stoudemire said. “I’ve got to keep working on that. I’ve got to keep working on that. It’s not really down to perfection yet.”
With the blowout, and the Suns’ new depth, Johnson played 25 minutes, breaking his 35-game streak of playing at least 40 minutes per game. It was the longest such streak since Nate Thurmond’s 37 consecutive games from Dec. 30, 1968 to March 7, 1969. … About 30 members of the Japanese media were at the game, which was televised live in Japan by two networks, NHK and TV Tokyo. … Atlanta has only one player—Boris Diaw—who was with the Hawks when they beat the Suns in Phoenix last season. … The Suns announced they are dedicating their season to Cotton Fitzsimmons, the longtime coach and team executive who died of cancer in July.