Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Michael Beasley held himself accountable, Jared Dudley was quite retrospective and Markieff Morris enjoyed playing against his "brother" from Kansas.
The Phoenix Suns did what home teams in preseason do. They won the game for the home crowd - 103-88 over the Sacramento Kings - despite allowing an opening 14-0 run over the span of 3:27 (after a pair of Scola free throws) that included seven - SEVEN! - Suns turnovers and 6 of 7 Kings scores on layups.
"We started the game a little lax," Jared Dudley said afterward. "I think it's called focus. You're playing a preseason game. Not many fans here. We're playing the Kings.
"It's no excuse but that's basically what happened. We can't allow that to happen this year if we're going to be successful. A lot of times last year - Cleveland at home, then another bad team - that's how you miss the playoffs by one or two games when that happens."
Every Suns starter had at least one turnover in the first four minutes: three by Luis Scola, one each from Dudley, Gortat, Dragic and Beasley. Beasley added a second turnover a few minutes later to make it eight for the starters in eight minutes of play, resulting in 12 of the Kings' 18 points.
But it wasn't just offensive woes. Michael Beasley placed plenty of blame onto himself in a first-quarter stint that featured the Kings giving the ball to whoever Beasley guarded a few possessions in a row.
"Early on, it went terrible," Beasley said. "I was forcing it too much, not really going with what I can do on the defensive side. Not good.
"It's my fault, I've got to stay aggressive throughout the whole game. As opposed to maybe 3 or 4 minutes where I'm not in the groove, so to speak. That's my fault. It's something I need to work on to be consistent."
Then the Suns turned to the bench, who stopped turning the ball over and cut four points off the nine-point deficit before Suns starters began trickling back in to contribute to an eventual 6-point lead at the half.
By that time, it was clear that while the Suns were going to play this game with their projected regular season rotation, the Kings were treating this game like a roadie on a B2B in the preseason. Sacramento played 15 players at least 4:52 each by halftime to the Suns' 10-man rotation that played at least 9:16 each. DeMarcus Cousins played a dominant eight first-quarter minutes, never to leave the bench again.
The second half was more of the same, with the Suns pulling away from Sacramento's mishmash rotations to an 18-point lead that never got below seven and ended at 15.
Jared Dudley was the star of the game, making nearly every open shot (9-12 overall, 4-6 on 3s) on his way to 25 solid points.
Beasley atoned for his first-quarter dud with a very solid all-around game, including some strong inside play. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
"We got to come ready to play 100% from the tip to the end," Beasley said. "We can't rely on ourselves to pull us out of the hole."
Markieff Morris spent much of the second half locked into a battle with rookie, and former Kansas Jayhawk teammate, Thomas Robinson. Both players worked hard on each end of the court, showing hustle mixed with a dizzying array of missed shots.
"It's tough," Morris said. "He's got a lot of energy, he's an energy guy. You've got to match his energy."
He did. And in the end, their lines were similarly impressive.
Morris: 6-14 from the field for 14 points (2-4 FTs), 10 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 assists and 3 steals and a blocked shot, with no turnovers in 21 minutes before fouling out.
Robinson: 5-15 from the field for 17 points (7-11 FTs), 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 assist and 1 steal, with 1 turnover in 24:49 against 4 personal fouls.
Morris keeps getting called for what appear to be ticky-tack fouls. He is an aggressive defender who likely spends way too much time bodying up his opponent right in front of the referees.
But he was more interested in talking about Robinson than the foul calls.
"It's my brother," Morris said. "I feel the same way when I play against him as when I play against Marcus. It's exciting and I'm happy to be on the same court as him again."
Tonight's game against Golden State will likely be the last deep dip into the bench - the last chance for Luke Zeller, Ike Diogu and Solomon Jones to make their case for the Suns' regular season roster. Same goes for fourth-string point guard Diante Garrett.
Gentry is ready to tighten the rotation from now on, with the season just nine days away and only one preseason game left after tonight. Last night's game is a great example of the season's rotation, with Wesley Johnson and P.J. Tucker sharing minutes at backup small forward behind Michael Beasley.