Phoenix Suns Christmas History

BY Fansided and Adam Maynes/FanSided via Valley of the Suns • December 24, 2016

Dec 20, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns dancers wear Santa Claus Christmas outfits as they perform against the Milwaukee Bucks at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Bucks defeated the Suns 101-95. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns have played 18 games on Christmas Day in the franchises history – and have a very good record to show for it.

Below is a listing of every game the Suns have played on Christmas Day, coupled with a brief summary of each game and a few interesting statistics.


Year – Suns v Opponent Final Score W/L Suns record At That Time
1968 – Suns v Lakers 99-119 L 8-27
1969 – Suns v Boston 127-116 W 15-21
1970 – Suns v Atlanta 127-115 W 21-18
1971 – Suns v Seattle 116-86 W 20-16
1972 – Suns v Chicago 115-108 W 17-18
1973 – Suns v Lakers 135-100 W 14-22
1974 – Suns v Boston 110-96 W 15-17
1975 – Suns v Kansas City 122-111 W 15-11
1976 – Suns v Lakers 113-96 W 13-16
1980 – Suns v San Antonio 131-111 W 31-8
1981 – Suns v Lakers 101-104 L 15-11
1982 – Suns at Utah 111-101 W 17-11
1993 – Suns v Houston 111-91 W 19-5
1995 – Suns v San Antonio 100-105 L 11-13
1996 – Suns v Lakers 87-108 L 8-19
2007 – Suns at Lakers 115-122 L 19-9
2008 – Suns v San Antonio 90-91 L 16-12
2009 – Suns v Clippers 124-93 W 19-11

Record – 12-6
Home 11-5
Road – 1-1

Scoring average

Longest Winning Streak – 9 – 1969-80
Longest Losing Streak – 4 – 1995-08

Suns average record after Christmas game – 16.27-14.4

Oct 3, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; An old Phoenix Suns logo is displayed on the video board at a free scrimmage at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns

Suns on Christmas in the 60’s

1968 – Suns v Lakers 99-119 L (0-1)

With 5:52 remaining in the first half, the Suns held a 50-26 lead in their first ever nationally televised game on ABC. From that point on, following Phoenix Head Coach’s admission of fault by substituting in the entire bench, the Lakers turned the game completely in their favor and over a 12:13 stretch outscored the Suns 41-16, at their peak leading the Suns by 24, equaling Phoenix’s earlier lead on Los Angeles.

In 43 minutes Dick Van Arsdale fell one assist shy of a triple double, leading all scorers with 27 points and snagging 11 rebounds. Jimmy fox and Gary Gregor each threw in double-doubles of their own.

For Los Angeles, Jerry West recorded 26 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Wilt Chamberlain scored and grabbed 15 points and rebounds, and Elgin Baylor scored 22 points and recorded 13 rebounds of his own.

1969 – Suns v Boston 127-116 W (1-1)

The Suns celebrated two franchise firsts with this Christmas Day victory: their first ever win on the holiday, and their first ever victory over the Boston Celtics, the final franchise in the league that they hadn’t beaten at least once. This was also Phoenix’s 5th consecutive nationally televised win.

Grabbing an early 23-9 lead only six minutes into the game, Suns center Jim Fox finished the quarter 6-10 from the field. In the third quarter the Celtics pulled to within 7, but following several field goals in a row, the Suns found themselves back up by double digits and were never really again threatened by the defending NBA Champions.

Phoenix shot 50% from the field led by leading scorer Fox’s 31 points. Fox also tallied 10 rebounds, however it was Paul Silas’ game high 18 rebounds that stole the statistical show; he finished with 25 points. Gail Goodrich had 24 points and 14 assists while backcourt-mate Dick Van Arsdale scored 19 while dishing out 7 assists. Connie Hawkins finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes, though was hampered by 5 fouls.

Don Nelson scored 21 and grabbed 12 rebounds for Boston and John Havlicek scored 16 points. The Celtics played 11 players in double digit minutes.

Oct 3, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; An old Phoenix Suns logo is displayed on the video board at a free scrimmage at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns

Suns on Christmas in the 70’s

1970 – Suns v Atlanta 127-115 W (2-1) (YouTube Video of the Entire Game)

Taking a lead with four minutes left in the first quarter, the Suns never relinquished from there – though the Pete Maravich-led Hawks did make it a game in the second half.

Down by as many as 17 in the second quarter, Atlanta slowly clawed its way back in using a 40-20 third quarter scoring outburst to pull to within one and headed into the fourth quarter down only two. However, a strong final stanza by Phoenix beginning with a 9-0 run put the Hawks back in their nest and let the home crowd go home with a second straight Christmas Day victory.

After committing three fouls in the games first 2:15, Connie Hawkins was held scoreless in the first half. He turned it around in the final two quarters and finished the game with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Dick Van Arsdale led the Suns with 32 points while Neal Walk recorded a 15-10 double-double. But It was Paul Silas’ 16 points, 20 rebounds and 4 assists that really stole the statistical show,

For Atlanta, Lou Hudson led the way with 33 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Superstar Pete Maravich scored 28 while grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists himself. Walt Bellamy recorded a 16 point and 10 rebound double-double.

1971 – Suns v Seattle 116-86 W (3-1)

Coming off the bench due to an injured left knee, Connie Hawkins scored 20 points in the second half to finish with 31, remarking after the game “is that all I scored?” In a game of streaks for both teams, It was the Suns’ scoring runs of 9-0 in the first quarter, 10-0 in the second, 11-0 in the second, 18-4 in the third, and 13-2 in the fourth that helped them to pull away with the 30 point victory.

Aside from his game high 31, Connie Hawkins also grabbed 8 rebounds. Dick Van Arsdale had a smooth line of 21 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, but Paul Silas recorded a solid double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

No Seattle scorer reached 20 points, though Lenny Wilkens (19-11), Spencer Haywood (18-11), and Donald Smith (11-12) each recorded point and rebound double-doubles. Wilkens fell three assists short of a triple-double.

1972 – Suns v Chicago 115-108 W (4-1)

Playing from behind from about the 7-minute mark in the first quarter until 4:41 remaining in the fourth, the Suns scraped and clawed their away to a Christmas Day victory over a team that had defeated them nine out of their last 10 meetings. They used a huge 38-25 fourth quarter to help eek it out late after trailing by four heading into the final period.

Dick Van Arsdale had a season-high 32 points on 11-18 shooting from the floor and 10-11 from the free throw stripe. Charlie Scott and Neal Walk scored 26 and 20 points respectively (Scott had 9 assists while Walk added 9 rebounds) and Connie Hawkins (15) and Clem Haskins (12) rounded out the double-digit scorers. Lamar Green added 14 rebounds to go along with 8 points.

Chicago went without their defensive stopper, Jerry Sloan, but Bob Love did his best to upset the Suns scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Clifford Ray secured a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Norm Van Lier dished out 14 assists to go with his 8 points and 6 rebounds.

1973 – Suns v Lakers 135-100 W (5-1)

Three minutes into this Christmas Day game and it looked like it would be a close and competitive one. Then for the subsequent 45 minutes, the Phoenix Suns tore away from their arch-rivals (who were missing Jerry West due to injury and Head Coach Bill Sharman due to an illness with his wife) and after leading 123-84 midway through the fourth, wound up with their 35-point blowout.

The victory marked the second largest in franchise history to date, and was the largest defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers by the Phoenix Suns in the franchise’s history as well – a record that still stands to this day.

The Suns scored over 30 points in each quarter, including 74 points total in the second half, and were led by a very balanced offense with each player on the active roster scoring at least two points.

Jim Owens led all scorers with 27 points. Corky Calhoun scored 19, making all eight of his field goals consecutively. Neal Walk and Mike Bantom had double-doubles with Walk scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Bantom dropping in 19 points and snaring 13 rebounds of his own – leading all rebounders.

Former Suns Connie Hawkins and Gail Goodrich tallied 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists combined, and future Sun Pat Riley led all Lakers’ scorers with 17 points.

1974 – Suns v Boston 110-96 W (6-1)

For the second straight Christmas Day, the Phoenix Suns took control of the game early and ran away with it.

Taking the lead for good with a little over a minute left in the first quarter, the Suns used stifling defense and shot 30-33 from the free-throw line to help prevent the Celtics from ever coming too close, even when they made a third quarter run to bring it within four heading into the fourth. Phoenix also shot 51% from the field and used a 28-18 point fourth quarter disparity to push the Celtics out.

Charlie Scott led Phoenix with 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, while also draining all ten of his free throws. Keith Erickson scored 25 while Dick Van Arsdale came off the bench to score 18, dish out 8 assists and grab 3 steals. Curtis Perry recorded Phoenix’s only double-double with 12 points and boards alike.

Jo-Jo White led all scorers with 33 points, while Dave Cowens scored 23 and grabbed 13 boards. Celtic-great John Havlicek scored 15, rounding out all double-digit scorers, while also dishing out a game-high 9 assists.

1975 – Suns v Kansas City 122-111 W (7-1)

Falling behind early, down 21-8 only five and a half minutes into the game, the Suns overcame a first half shooting clinic by Kansas City (59% from the field) to take a 55-54 lead at half.

The two teams fought hard in the third, but it was the Suns who took a three-point advantage into the fourth quarter and ultimately used a 37-29 scoring advantage to pull away.

The Suns needed big games from several players to overcome the Kings’ shooting and got it from several familiar faces. While Curtis Perry led the Suns in scoring with 27 and all rebounders with 11, it was Paul Westphal who changed the game defensively with 6 steals (5 in the first half) coupled with his 25 points and 7 assists. Alvan Adams, who was poked in the eye in the third quarter and was hampered by sore feet, managed 12 points and 9 assists himself.

Nate Archibald who had a hand 64% of the Kings’ 111 points with 39 points and 16 assists by himself, was helped by Scott Wedman’s 28 points and 10 rebounds, and Larry McNeill’s 17 points and 9 rebounds. Future Phoenix Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni had been on the Kings for two and a half seasons, but had been waived by Kansas City only one month earlier.

1976 – Suns v Lakers 113-96 W (8-1)

Scoring a season-low 14 points in the second quarter and down 15 points early in the third, the Suns used a massive second-half rush to overwhelm the Los Angeles Lakers and keep the Christmas Day winning streak alive. Phoenix’s 79 second half points was four points off of the club record. The Suns’ 43 fourth quarter points were also a season high. Their eventual 17-point victory matched the team’s average winning gap across the seven prior victories.

Paul Westphal led all scorers with 25 points, but it was Gar Heard’s 21 points and 18 rebounds that really stifled the Lakers’ ability to get at the Suns and steal away a Christmas Day victory. Alvan Adams finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

In 38 minutes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored only 22 points and grabbed 11 boards. Cazzie Russell matched Russell’s team high with 22 points himself. Only Lucius Allen also scored in double-figures for the Lakers and finished with 15.

Oct 3, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; An old Phoenix Suns logo is displayed on the video board at a free scrimmage at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns

Suns on Christmas in the 80’s

1980 – Suns v San Antonio 131-111 W (9-1)

After three years away from Christmas Day matchups, the Suns were once again scheduled to do so, this time against the San Antonio Spurs.

Playing in front of their first Christmas Day sell-out in Veterans Memorial Coliseum history – a capacity 12,660 in attendance – the Suns capitalized on the Spurs’ giving mood as San Antonio turned the ball over 23 times.

The best Suns team in history to date, Phoenix grabbed the lead early, and never relinquished, leading by 17 at half, and by 27 at times in the third quarter, never letting San Antonio come closer than twelve in the second half.

Phoenix had eight players score in double figures, led by Dennis Johnson’s 23. Walter Davis and Truck Robinson each dropped in 20 points each, while Truck also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

George Gervin was pestered by Suns guards defensively all game, and even had four fouls in the first half. He would still finish with a game-high 32 points, and added 8 rebounds and 5 assists, to go along with his game-high 6 turnovers.

1981 – Suns v Lakers 101-104 L (9-2)

Facing a Mitch Kupchak and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-less Los Angeles Lakers, the two teams battled as Suns fans have come to expect in a bitter duel that left only the Lakers standing victorious – the only team to defeat the Suns on Christmas Day thus far.

Leading by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, the Lakers went on a run that cut the lead to five at the half. Following a back-and-forth third quarter, the Suns still clung to a two point lead heading into the fourth.

However, after an Alvin Scott jumper with 4:52 remaining which gave the Suns a 91-90 lead, Michael Cooper and Magic Johnson went on a little 6-0 run to take a lead which they never relinquished. With a minute left Alvan Adams sank a 15-footer to bring the Suns to within 100-99.

Alvan Adams and Dennis Johnson each had 19 points while Truck Robinson recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds. Johnson also snuck 3 steals.

Michael Cooper played 46 minutes and scored 30 points, while Norm Nixon played 42 minutes and scored 23 to go along with 6 assists. Magic Johnson had 18 points, 8 assists and 3 steals.

1982 – Suns at Utah 111-101 W (10-2)

Phoenix got back on the Christmas winning track against a depleted and dilapidated Utah Jazz – Phoenix’s first road game on Christmas day in franchise history.

Gabbing an early 15-4 lead four minutes into the contest, the Jazz never led and was never closer than seven points after that. Leading by as many as 23 in the fourth quarter, the Suns won their fifth out of six games with this Christmas Day wallop.

Maurice Lucas dominated with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and a blocked shot. His 12-14 from the floor were also the best of any player who saw time on the court – all of this came in only 29 minutes. Larry Nance and Alvan Adams each scored 14, though Adams also had 10 rebounds and fell one assists short of the team’s first Christmas Day triple-double.

Jeff Wilkins led the Jazz with 21 points and 15 rebounds, and future Phoenix Sun Danny Schayes started at center and recorded 18 points and 12 rebounds. His Father, NBA Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, was in attendance.

Feb 6, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns mascot Gorilla looks on against the Utah Jazz at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Suns on Christmas in the 90’s

1993 – Suns v Houston 111-91 W (11-2)

After a 10-year Christmas hiatus, the Western Conference Champion Suns played host to the Houston Rockets, who to that date were running roughshod through the NBA carrying into the Purple Palace a 22-2 record. The two team’s combined record on Christmas Day of 85.1% was, at the time, the highest of two teams meeting on Christmas Day. The percentage is still third highest in history.

Taking a small 3-point lead into the second quarter, Kevin Johnson took over and scored 18 points himself matching the Rockets’ own quarterly output. Houston would cut the lead early in the fourth quarter to seven, but after a three consecutive series’ with the Rockets’ missing a three-point shot to which the Suns rebounded and scored a basket, Houston never really had a chance.

Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson nearly equaled the Rockets’ score on their own as Barkley and KJ each finished with season-high’s to date with 38 and 36 respectively. Barkley grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds while KJ dished out 9 assists. A.C. Green reached a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds himself.

On two separate occasions Robert Horry had flashy slam dunks. Immediately following each event, guard Vernon Maxwell boisterously shouted at the Phoenix bench. Maxwell finished with a paltry 4-15 from the field and 2-9 from beyond the arc. Hakeem Olajuwon worked hard for his team-high 27 points and 13 rebounds as Suns center Oliver Miller fronted him throughout the game and wound up with a game-high 4 steals.

Future Suns Robert Horry and Sam Cassell finished with 20 and 13 points respectively.

1995 – Suns v San Antonio 100-105 L (11-3)

Without guards Danny Ainge (in the stands) and Dan Majerle (a Cleveland Cavalier) the Suns were short on veteran guard play and veteran leadership in general as Kevin Johnson and John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams (who was brought in for Dan Majerle) were also out with injuries.

Down ten after one, the Suns came back aided by a 22-8 run in the second and took a five-point lead into the half. From there the Suns led by as many as 12 points and were up six heading into the fourth. However, from that point forward the Spurs executed and the Suns didn’t, as San Antonio used a 29-16 scoring advantage to win the game. Phoenix had been up by six with 3:48 remaining and were still tied with a little over a minute to go. However, a San Antonio seven-point scoring run sealed the deal, and the Phoenix loss.

Barkley finished with another impressive Christmas outing, scoring 29 points and ensnaring 15 rebounds in 46 minutes. He flirted with a triple-double as well recording 7 assists. Wesley Person and A.C. Green each scored 17, though Person held a slight rebound edge, 9-8. Rookie Michael Finley finished with 16 points on 5-12 shooting and two steals in 44 minutes.

Sean Elliot, David Robinson, and Avery Johnson each played 44 minutes themselves, Elliot scoring 28 points including two three-point shots; ‘The Admiral’ scored 25 and grabbed 10 rebounds; and Avery Johnson scored 19 and dished out a game-high 12 assists.

1996 – Suns v Lakers 87-108 L (11-4)

Suffering their first-ever blowout on Christmas Day, the Suns were still at an early point in their miraculous turnaround season, one that began with an 0-13 start, and would end with a playoff appearance and near first-round upset of Seattle.

On Christmas, however, the Suns were never really in it. Down 9 after one, and scoring only 14 points, the Suns would score 31 in the second and found themselves very much in the game down 6 at half.

However, even with a seemingly game-ending injury to Eddie Jones, as well as early foul trouble to center’s Shaquille O’Neal and Elden Campbell, the Suns were unable to take advantage and after a five-point third quarter deficit, were outscored by 10 in the final period, never really finding an opportunity to get back into it.

Sam Cassel led the Suns in scoring, although it was mainly on free throws as he only shot 3-8 from the field, though he was 11-15 from the charity stripe. Danny Manning and Rex Chapman each tallied 15 points, and KJ, who was scoreless in the first half, finished with 10.

Shaq dominated the Suns with 26 points, 16 rebounds, and a blocked shot. Eddie Jones finished with 24 points, and Elden Campbell too recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Rookie Kobe Bryant finished with one foul and zero points in five minutes.

Feb 6, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns mascot Gorilla looks on against the Utah Jazz at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Suns on Christmas in the 2000’s

2007 – Suns at Lakers 115-122 L (11-5)

In a closely fought battle for three quarters in which the Suns held a 1 point lead after one, they found themselves tied at 62 at half, and finally down only three heading into the fourth. After a fast start by the Lakers, the Suns never had an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter, climbing no closer than 112-107 with 2:39 remaining. To this point in the season, the Suns found themselves in a funk and were looking for a sense of game-changing chemistry to help turn the season around.

Less than two months later Shawn Marion was traded for Shaquille O’Neal.

Each player in the Suns’ starting lineup played no less than 33 minutes led by Steve Nash’s 36 min, scoring 24 and dishing out 14 assists. Nash also hit 5-10 from three. Shawn Marion finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Amare Stoudemire had 19 points, 6 boards, and 5 fouls. Most impressively, Head Coach Mike D’Antoni played 11 players. Ten of the eleven scored in double-digits, with Boris Diaw the only Phoenix outlier, scoring 8 points on 3-9 shooting.

In his first Christmas Day matchup against the Phoenix Suns, Kobe Bryant played only five minutes and didn’t score a point. In this his second, and final Christmas Day matchup of his career against the Suns, he scored a game-high 38 points, dishing out 7 assists, and grabbed 6 rebounds. 20-year old Andrew Bynum looked like he was going to dominate the league for a considerable amount of time at this point in his career and scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Lamar Odom too recorded a double-double, with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

2008 – Suns v San Antonio 90-91 L (11-6)

Breaking out to an 11-0 lead to start the game, the Suns led for all but 41 seconds until the final five minutes of regulation. However, it was the final 7.7 second decided the outcome.

Down 88-84 late, the Suns went on a 6-0 run to take a 90-88 lead capped with only 4.3 seconds left when Amare Stoudemire found Grant Hill for a layup. Out of the ensuing timeout, new Suns guard Jason Richardson overplayed Tony Parker, leaving Roger Mason wide-open for the buzzer beating three and the shock San Antonio win.

Phoenix scored a season-low 14 points in the fourth quarter, and the Suns bench scored only two points, both scored by Leandro Barbosa.

Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal each had double-doubles combining for 47 points, 25 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots. Grant Hill had 16 points, whereas Steve Nash finished with 13 and 8 assists.

For the Spurs, Tony Parker led the game in scoring with 27 points and also dished out 8 assists, but Tim Duncan had 25 to go along with 17 caroms. Roger Mason’s game-winning three allowed him to finish with 7 points.

2009 – Suns v Clippers 124-93 W (12-6)

In Phoenix’s most recent Christmas Day game, the Suns ended their four-game losing streak on the holiday, and in the way that they used to do so many times in their history – a blowout.

Trailing by as many as eight early in the first quarter, and down six about mid-way through, Phoenix Rallied to end the quarter on a 20-8 run, and never looked back. Expanding their lead after every quarter of the game, the highlight was a 70-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half by Grant Hill.

Amare Stoudemire fell one rebound short of a double-double because the starters were pulled early, but led all scorers with 26 none-the-less. Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley finished with 18 points each, and Steve Nash tallied 14 with 8 assists. Dudley, Goran Dragic, and Jason Richardson finished a combined 10-17 from three.

Rasual Butler led the Clippers with 22 points, and Chris Kaman tallied the only double-double of the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

*All game summaries were researched using the Arizona Republic Archives.

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