Another close game, another heart-breaking ending for the Phoenix Suns. The Kings defeated Phoenix 107-104 after they went on a 10-0 run late in the game to steal a game the Suns had total control of throughout much of the second half.
The Kings entered the game with a 2-7 record, whereas the Suns were 5-4. Phoenix was missing Eric Bledsoe, who sat out to rest a bruised shin. The Kings came out sharp in the first quarter and took advantage of a surprisingly lethargic Suns defense. Rookie Ben McLemore scored 8 points in the first period and Sacramento took a 33-25 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter was all
Phoenix Suns Marcus Morris and Archie Goodwin. Marcus used up all the twin mojo for the night and gave the Suns a much-needed spark of the bench. Archie also came out with tremendous energy and fueled a 37 point outburst from the Suns in the second quarter, the highest-scoring period of the season for Phoenix. Archie had two fantastic steals and breakaway dunks in the second quarter and even managed to hit a three-pointer. He also celebrated every play he made on the floor tonight with plenty of emotion. It's amazing what some confidence can do for a player like him - he started his night with a strong drive to draw a foul and kept up the energy on the defensive end by forcing turnovers, which led to points on the other end, which in turn gave him the confidence to shoot and make jumpshots.
The Suns began the second half with an 8-point lead (which was stretched to as much as 15 at one point) and more or less kept pace throughout much of the third quarter. Gerald Green in particular was great during that stretch, making three pointers, throwing down a vicious one-handed slam dunk off of a beautiful dish from Dragic, and even throwing a lob to Miles Plumlee on a fast-break. He and Ben McLemore got into a bit of a competition, as both guys were making similar plays on both ends of the floor.
Phoenix took a 6 point lead into the 4th quarter and maintained their streak of being the only team in the NBA to have led in the final period of every game thus far into the NBA season. However, Kings quickly cut their deficit and the game became a back-and-forth for much of the fourth quarter...until the final three minutes. Gerald Green made a 3-pointer to give the Suns a 7 point lead with 3:35 left and the Kings called a timeout. Following the break, Phoenix failed to score the rest of the game and Sacramento went on a 10-run to close out and leave with a 107-104 win.
The Killer Stretch
Let's take a look at the Suns' offensive possessions in the last 3:35 of the game, which again resulted in ZERO points:
- 3:04 - Turnover on Dragic
- 2:33 - Cousins steals the ball from Dragic
- 2:06 - Ish Smith misses a three-pointer
- 2:05 - Frye offensive rebound
- 2:00 - Frye airball
- 1:29 - 3-second violation on Plumlee
- 0:59.6 - Turnover on Dragic
- 0:31.4 - Isaiah Thomas steals the ball from Ish Smith
- 0:22.9 - Cousins steals the ball from Dragic
- 0:6.9 - Dragic missed fade-away 17-footer
- 0:1.9 - Marcus Morris missed three-pointer
- 0:00 - Gerald Green missed shot from past half-court
In summation, that's 6 turnovers, 5 missed shots and 0 points in crunch time. If you woke up this morning with a burning desire to find the answer to "how to lose a basketball game," you were in luck. Of course, I could also refer you to the majority of Suns games from last season as well if you're into that sort of masochism.
On the Kings' front, Demarcus Cousins has another strong game against Phoenix, finishing with 27 points and 12 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field. Ben McLemore tallied 19 points (5-13 from the field, 4-10 on threes) and 5 rebounds and Isaiah Thomas continued to be Sacramento's super-sub, ending the night with 19 points and 3 assists in just 24 minutes.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first...
- Goran Dragic's 4th quarter zeroics - Dragic was one of the best crunch-time performers last season (and even in the 2011-12 season in Houston), so his fourth quarter tonight was uncharacteristically atrocious. Dragic struggled with his shot most of the game but did a great job of getting his teammates involved and making fantastic passes throughout most of the game...until the last 4 minutes. Dragic turned the ball over 4 times (!!!) in the last 3 and a half minutes, including twice in the last minute (!!!!!!). He also missed a tough turnaround jumper that would have tied the game with 7 seconds remaining. Isaiah Thomas played strong defense on Dragic most of the night, but Goran's errors at the end of the game were mainly just issues of him trying to force plays, which resulted from the overall offensive stagnation. One game does not make or break a player, so we should consider this an outlier for Goran Dragic.
- More Goodwin = Less Bad Loss - I think Jeff Hornacek is an absolutely fantastic coach for this team and I'm a big fan, but in these last three losses, he has made some curious decisions at the end of games. In Portland, he took Plumlee out on the last defensive possession, which led to a wide open game-winning layup from Damian Lillard. Tonight, he didn't play Archie Goodwin enough. After a fantastic first half and some good plays in the 4th quarter, Archie left the game with about 8 minutes left and never returned. I understand he's a rookie, but his energy had clearly had a positive effect whenever he was on the floor and he definitely should have seen more time late in the game. Again, this is only the 10th game of Hornacek's coaching career, so we can chalk these up as lessons.
- Player of the Weak, Markieff Morris: Markieff played 11 minutes tonight and finished with 3 points (all from free throws; he didn't have a single field goal attempt), 0 rebounds, 0 assists and 5 fouls. He was never able to get into rhythm because of foul trouble and was rendered completely ineffective tonight. His fifth foul was a real killer, as he hit Ben McLemore on a three-point attempt with 4 seconds left in the third quarter, which allowed the Kings to cut the Suns' lead to 6 points and carry momentum over to the fourth.
- Archie Amazing - A career high 16 points (7-10 from the field) to go with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and plenty of smiles. Great performance from the rookie tonight and he was clearly enjoying himself. If he played more than 19 minutes, I'm sure we'd all be smiling more right now. MANDATORY REMINDER: Archie Goodwin is 19 years old. Check out Archie's highlights:
Marcus Markieff Marcus MarkieffMarcus Morris - Marcus was by far the superior twin tonight. He finished the night with 19 points and 3 rebounds in his 24 minutes off the bench. His final shot with 1.9 seconds left (which would have given the Suns the lead) may have missed, but I actually think that was a good play call from Jeff Hornacek - a baseline in-bounds pass from Marcus to Markieff, who passed it back to Mook for the three. However, the spacing wasn't great and Marcus' attempt was contested.
- Channing Frye - 17 points (7-13 from the field, 3-6 on threes), 9 rebounds, 1 block and a +9 on the night in 30 minutes. He is not a scrub.
- Alex Len...played - The fact that Len played even 5 minutes is a positive, right? He finished with 0 points and 0 rebounds but he had 1 assist and 1 steal. And he was on the floor! Progress!
This may have been yet another tough loss for Phoenix but as always, there are positives to take away (BRIGHT SIDE, people!). Hopefully, the Suns will start to show that they're actually learning from these experiences by maintaining their leads and closing out games. In fact, they can show that tomorrow night in Phoenix against this same Kings team!