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Big third quarter propels the Suns to victory over the Kings

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns were able to rebound from a curious first half and eventually broke open the game to beat the Sacramento Kings 118-97.

Eric Bledsoe was the star man with 19 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. Bledsoe hit three jumpers early and that seemed to lock him into the game right away. T.J. Warren's pace off the bench after P.J. Tucker picked up two fouls helped the Suns out in transition and capitalize on mismatches on offense. He had 13 points off the bench.

Alex Len was able to take advantage of the Kings small rotation and played big down low. An efficient 7-11 night is exactly what he needed.

Brandon Knight recovered well from a poor first half and finished with 17 points and 7 assists on 7-16 shooting. This was not the big Markieff Morris breakthrough performance, but he had a solid 8 points, 3 rebounds, and good defense on Rudy Gay, who was 4-13.

This game was strange because the Kings came to Phoenix after losing last night to the Grizzlies and had no DeMarcus Cousins. With that in mind, it seemed like if the Suns got out to an early lead there would be no turning back in front of their home crowd. This was sort of true, as they leapt out to a 28-18 lead after one quarter.

However, from that point in the game until the middle of the third quarter, the Suns looked stagnant on both ends and committed lots of turnovers. Fortunately for them, a Cousins-less Kings didn't have enough firepower or energy to take advantage.

They did seem to realize the game was up for grabs though and they tied it up in the third quarter after James Anderson hit three straight threes. But, that was finally the time in the game when the Suns turned it on and from that point on they didn't look back.

Check out the game notes below:

First Half

Eric Bledsoe had his jump shot going early and that allowed him to find some rhythm. The Kings weren't doing much to stop his jump shot and Bledsoe is a pretty good shooter when it comes to open looks. He especially loves to dribble into his shot and poor transition D from the Kings allowed him to hit his second three and start with eight quick points.

Suns closed out the first quarter leading 28-18. The Kings had nothing going offensively, in regards to both making shots and creating good looks. The starting five looked good when they ran and took advantage of some suspect transition defense from the Suns, but there wasn't much else there. Worth noting that the Suns weren't playing lights out on defense.

In the middle of the second quarter, there was a weird vibe to the game. It never felt like the Suns were playing great basketball, but they continued to hold their lead. The Kings need to rely on someone like Marco Belinelli or Rudy Gay to get hot because their offense does not produce much. They are also coming off a game last night against the Grizzlies, which would explain the lack of energy.

Sonny Weems had a rough quarter with two bad turnovers. The first was a bounce pass to a rolling Jon Leuer, which was both behind him and at his feet. The other was moving a second too early on a ball screen from Alex Len, giving him the offensive foul. We saw Devin Booker around this time despite still being listed on the injury report, so that should say something. Alex Len also couldn't catch a pass under the basket. These two continued to struggle up to this point.

Booker hit an open three when Darren Collison inexplicably went under a screen, but you can see why he still has a ways to go. A simple up fake from Belinelli got Booker to bite and all it took was a drive on the baseline to an uncontested layup.

At some point in the second half of the second quarter the Kings realized how poorly the Suns were playing and started to play with a little bit more urgency and energy. They certainly weren't turning on the jets, but ten turnovers, an uninspiring performance from the bench, and the starters coming back in and failing to change much had the Kings still in the game.

P.J. Tucker hit a three at the buzzer and maybe that's the wakeup call the Suns needed, but their energy walking to the tunnel certainly was not positive.

Second Half

Remember in the first half when I said the Kings were relying on a scoring explosion? It happened, but it was James Anderson of all people. Anderson can shoot, but he's not a marksman by any means. Regardless, he hit three straight threes that helped the Kings tie the game up early in the third quarter.

After that, the Suns were finally able to turn it back on after being stuck for around 15 minutes of game time. An 11-0 run after the Kings tied up the game was encouraging to see. Brandon Knight had four straight baskets, who was the one Sun who really needed to get it going.

Despite the scoreboard, the Kings had some of their best offense in the third quarter. There were just way too many turnovers and the Suns offense was taking advantage. 81-69 score at the end of the quarter still gave both the Kings a chance to come back in the game and the Suns a chance to deliver the knockout blow, the same situation we were at late in the first quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Kings kept answering the Suns attempts to put the game out of reach until the seven minute mark. It's fitting that it was an Eric Bledsoe breakout pass to T.J. Warren to do so. The two of them were the best players for Phoenix, particularly Bledsoe.

It might have taken a bit too long for the Suns to grab control of this game, but a win is a win.