While football has become a traditional sport to watch on Thanksgiving, the NBA didn’t completely phase out Thanksgiving games until 2011. In fact, in the early days of the NBA, they played a lot on Thanksgiving, but when the 80s rolled around, they dropped T-day games for just over a decade until they brought back a few games between 1993 and 2010.
The Phoenix Suns only played a few of those early games back in the 70s, but they have an all-time positive 4-2 record in them. Their first win was in 1970 when the Phoenix fans beat the Seattle SuperSonics 126-115, for which they are grateful. In the 1st half, it was a seesaw battle as the Suns took a 60–59 lead at halftime. However, Connie Hawkins’ 29 points and 25 points, 12 double-double assists from the Original Sun, Dick Van Arsdale, led the Suns to an 11-point victory in the 2nd half. Paul Silas (16) and Neil Walk (14) with a total of 30 rebounds didn’t hurt either.
For the next two years, the Suns continued to play “Turkey Day” games at the Mad House, where they scored two more wins, both against the Detroit Pistons by 122–103 and 128–122. A 19-point victory over the Pistons in 1971 was also the Suns’ biggest ever win on the first day. In a 128–122 win in 1972, the Suns were actually trailing 58–56 in the first half, but the Suns swept the Pistons 43–27 in the third to take the lead for the rest of the game and earn the win. Sun Charlie Scott had an impressive triple-double with 42 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Suns missed a game the following year but then played at home again in 1974 when they suffered their first loss to Portland on the first day of play in a low-scoring but close 88–85 game. The Suns took a 26–19 lead at the end of the 1st quarter but were unable to hold onto the win, largely due to the Blazers taking 38 free throws (they made 28) compared to 16 (11) . does) for the Sun. Sound familiar, Suns fans?
In 1976, they returned to their winning ways, sending the Washington Bullets out of Phoenix with a 104-98 loss at the belt. The Suns were 13 points behind in that half, but brought it all back and more in an exciting 3rd quarter where they beat the Bullets 36–16. This Bullets team included THREE future Hall of Famers – Alvin Hayes, Dave Bing and Wes Unseld – in their starting lineup, which made the Suns’ comeback victory all the more impressive.
In 1977, the Suns played their first T-Day road game, which unfortunately ended in a 97–82 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was the Suns’ worst loss on the first day and their last game on the first day. Neither team shot particularly well in the first half, and by half-time the score was 38-38. The Suns’ shooting problems continued into the second half, but Cleveland didn’t give them a 15-point win.
No NBA team will be playing today this year, but we can at least still be grateful that the Suns have made it to this point at the top of the Western Conference standings with an 11-6 record. Not as good as last season’s 14-3, but still pretty damn good considering all the injuries they’ve faced. And while the Suns set a team record for most wins in a season last year with 64, their T-day win/loss percentage (.823) wasn’t really their best record ever at the time. In fact, it was only their 4th place. The 2004-05 and 2007-08 Suns are tied for the best T-day winning percentages of all time, both reaching this point with the same record of 10-2 (.833). Third place goes to the 1980–81 Suns, who had a 19–4 (.826) record on T-Day.
What is the worst record in Suns history, you ask? That dubious honor belongs to the 1996-97 Suns, who were 1-13 (.071) on T-Day. Ouch. There is nothing for fans to be thankful for on T-Day this year. At the very least, this team managed to eventually turn the tide, finishing 40-42 and making it to the playoffs, largely thanks to an 11-game winning streak at the end of the season from March 20 to April 10. Let’s hope this is the only Suns record that will never be broken.
Even though we can’t enjoy Suns basketball today, all of us here at BSotS hope you’re still having a great Thanksgiving!