Coming into their 11th game, the Phoenix Suns were one of only two teams in the league NOT to lose any games by more than double-digits points yet.
And they still haven't, losing 113-106. So, that's something.
28 other teams had been pasted by 10+ at least one time already, but the Suns and HEAT. At halftime of the Suns most lackluster effort of the season, it occurred to me that this Suns team looked a lot like the 2012-13 Suns. Lots of midrange jumpers, lots of bail-out shots at the end of the clock. And a disengaged set of players.
Into the fourth quarter, the stagnant nature of the game permeated. When Travis Outlaw scored five point in two possessions, it felt like the kill shot. It was an 18 point lead with about 8 minutes left.
But then Sacramento took their foot off the gas and the Suns suddenly found themselves in the game. The Suns cut the lead to seven and then to six at one point on hero-ball threes.
But it's hard to have a comeback if you're allowing scores to the other team every time down. The Kings started getting into the lane with regularity, forcing foul calls at the end of shot clocks time after time after time. Cousins. Thomas. Vasquez.
And then it was over. The Kings were into free throws for the rest of the game. Vasquez made 9 straight at one point, with Isaiah Thomas sprinkling in two of his own.
While the Suns wilted a night before, the Kings played like seasoned veterans - getting free throws and easy shots any time they wanted.
The Phoenix Suns came out fast and furious to the Kings sluggish pace, with Goran Dragic getting 11 points in the first 4.5 minutes, outscoring the Kings by 3.
But then the Kings turned it one by hustling on the boards, turning several offensive rebounds into 10 second-chance points to keep the game tied at 27-all after one.
The second quarter was not the Suns friend. Led by two rookies, two Morrii and an Ish, the Suns got rolled early in the second, allowing an 8-point Kings lead in the first three minutes. The Suns tried to fight back a few times, getting within three points a couple of times, but the Kings were just playing too well.
This was a 2-7 Kings team going nowhere fast before they encountered a back-to-back against the Suns.
Gerald Green was on fire for the Suns, becoming their only offensive weapon for a while in the second. He had 20 points in the first half alone on decisive jumpers, including 5 of 6 three-pointers.
This time it's the Suns' turn to be down at halftime at home, but thankfully only by 5 behind Green's onslaught of jumpers. Green and Dragic had 33 of the Suns' 50 first-half points.
Archie Goodwin played hard, but was 0-6 in the first half.
Despite what it looked like, the Suns had just as many offensive rebounds in the first half (8) as the Kings. Yet, the Kings created 15 second-chance points on those 8 boards, while the Suns only got 6. Effort.
At the start of the second half, the Kings came out just as focused while the Suns skated along on slow cuts, screens and passes. Things went from bad to worse. After getting outscored by 30 in one stretch against the Nets last Friday, the Suns came out flat in the third quarter again on Wednesday night at home.
These kinds of efforts don't endear you to a fanbase.
It was a 13-point deficit in the third pretty quick, as the Suns scored only 5 points in 9+ minutes against 7 turnovers. I mean, you can't even point out the field goal to turnovers ratio. Or the field goal ATTEMPTS to turnovers ratio. It was the total points to turnovers... oy.
The worst play of the third quarter was Marcus Morris trying to throw the lob from the 3-point line to his brother, who was being fronted under the basket. Marcus apparently thought it was someone else under the basket. When has Markieff jumped from a standstill off two feet even to the rim, let alone when being bodied up? What was Marcus thinking?
Anyway, as you might guess, the ball went untouched out of bounds. Another turnover. Kings ball.
The Suns ended up scoring only 12 points in the entire third quarter. I smell a frustrated postgame locker room coming on.
Then Travis Outlaw made a three pointer and a long two to open the fourth, and more light went out of the Suns sails. The Suns were really hesitant on offense, hesitant on defense. Just bad all around.
At least the Suns won't have the frustration of barely losing in the final seconds this time.
This team on the floor tonight - all 11 guys that have played - have been a collective buzzkill together. Nothing going. No confidence. No brashness. Dragic was all alone on his fast breaks again, playing with the backups as time wound inexscoribly down. No 2013-14 version. Just the same old last-season Suns. A collective Morris night.
That's the dregs, folks.
Notes from the first half:
- Dragic came out on fire while the Kings are little flat-footed. Dragic had 11 points in 4.5 minutes, after only 10 points all previous game against the Kings.
- Plumlee got to the line (missed the layup) and proceeded to miss both free throws. He hasn't made a free throw since Nov 8. 7 attempts in 4+ games.
- Channing Frye twice has forced Cousins into a bad shot at the rim, but both times no Sun could grab the rebound. Kings ball, two scores.
- Frye does not have the legs tonight. Let's hope the Mo Bros show up.
- Well, Markieff Morris is a -3 already. Technical called against him AFTER the Suns got a foul call. Had 5 fouls and 0 points last night.
- Finally, Plumlee made an and-one. Let's see if he makes the free throw.
- Plumlee is 10-28 on the year at the free throw line. Made nothing since Nov 8. Was 58-55% maker in college, so he should be a little better.
- John Salmons just pulled down the Kings' fourth offensive rebound - and we're only in the 4th Q.
- Well, the Kings ran off a good early second Q on the Suns (up 8 after 3 minutes) just like the Suns ran on them last night. Hornacek timeout. See if he can stop the bleeding.
- Markieff Morris being totally passive in this game - shooting uncontested fallaway 20-footer that must be driving his coach crazy.
- Hornacek takes Kieff right out of the game
- And Marcus Morris very content to take his own midrange jumpers
- It's prooooobably not a good idea to give up so many second chance points. Kings had 10 second chance points in the first Q alone. Cashing in.