The Phoenix Suns had a golden chance to pull within 2 games of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but instead forgot they were playing an NBA themselves and dropped a very winnable game to the Sacramento Kings.
Kings win 108 - 99.
Andre Miller sealed the game with 4 late free throws. The Kings made 20 of 23 FTs on the night, while the Suns made only 17 of 26.
The Kings had 7 players in double figures for the game, with 27 assists on 40 made field goals against what was the league's 6th ranked defense since the break.
The Suns had 4 players in double figures, with only 16 assists on 38 made field goals against what had been the league's 30th ranked defense since the break.
The Suns have now lost to the Kings 3 times, and are 3 wins back of the Oklahoma City Thunder with 10 games to play.
After talking about the techs going away late in the season, just like they'd hoped with bruhaha earlier this year, both the Morris brothers complained about the very first calls in the game and then coach Jeff Hornacek got himself T'd up.
Oh well. Suns down 5-2 early.
Eric Bledsoe started the game really lazy, with two quick unforced turnovers and allowing Ray McCallum to beat him to the hoop a couple of times thanks to turning his head on defense.
He was pulled after just 4 minutes of play, despite involved in 6 of the Suns 12 points (2 baskets, 1 assist) with the Suns leading 12-11 on two Alex Len free throws.
It's a shame the Suns still don't have Brandon Knight, who tested his ankle pregame but just wasn't ready to take the court. Maybe Friday, against Portland.
The game was ragged all around, with both teams scoring on broken plays quite a lot but not able to score in the half court sets.
The Suns recent defensive juggernaut tendencies were missing in the first quarter, allowing 31 points including 2 on technical free throws.
This one started as bad on the first quarter ended, with the Kings quickly getting up 38-28 on an Andre Miller three pointer that Eric Bledsoe didn't make any attempt to close out.
This is the 41% shooting Kings that are up 38-28. This is the Kings who are getting outrebounded 22-14, up 10 points. This is the Kings with DeMarcus Cousins having only 4 points and 1 rebounds in 10 minutes, up 10 points.
In the middle of this, Markieff Morris got his 14th technical of the season - two away from getting a one-game suspension.
The Suns crawled back to 38-35, but then the Kings pulled away again without really trying very hard or playing very well.
By mid-second, the only playmaker on the floor for the Suns was A.J. Price, who double-clutch airballed a jumper at one point and generally didn't provide anything positive besides NOT turning the ball over.
Still, the Suns were down 44-36 when he left the court and the Suns starters returned.
The starters tried to get a bit of momentum and pulled within 3 (48-45) on a nice fast break, but couldn't not get a handle on DeMarcus Cousins who scored the next time down and then had a gorgeous to a cutting Ray McCallum when the defense collapsed on him the next time down.
The Suns were down 58-53 at the half, even with Archie Goodwin making a buzzer beater.
Archie Goodwin had 11 points, 3 assists and 2 steals at the half. Markieff Morris had 15 points and 3 rebounds.
Word from the locker room is that Eric Bledsoe has a stomach bug - which explains why he hasn't played with any fire.
Someone playing with fire is DeMarcus Cousins, who is TORCHING the Suns on just about every play. The only good Suns defensive stops are against (sometimes) the other players.
Maybe Bledsoe could recommend something to eat for DeMarcus?
Cousins dominated the third quarter the way a good player does, making the right plays at the right time but not hogging the ball.
At the end of the quarter, Cousins had 20 points (on 10/16 shooting), 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.
Nik Stauskas already had 13 points on 5/6 shooting for the game.
Kings up 83-70.
The Suns went on a mini 4-0 run sandwiched by 2 bad turnovers.
But clearly that wasn't a recipe for success. And the Kings scored the next 4 points to push the lead back to 13 without even having to work hard for it.
Gerald Green finally broke loose for a couple of fallaway daggers to cut the Kings lead to 9 and THE CROWD WENT WILD. They were starving for a reason to get excited, and Gerald brought it.
Then Gerald took a few more shots, missed them badly, and the Kings were back up 12 with 6 minutes to go.
Then Gerald made a couple of good defensive plays and the Suns got it to 5.
Then the Kings made another timely three - their third big make (Stauskas, Williams, McLemore) since late in the third quarter to get back up 8.
Marcus made a shot to pull the Suns back to 6, but McLemore hit ANOTHER one to get the Kings lead back to 9 with 2:41 left.
The Suns just didn't have it tonight.
And the Kings built their confidence to take the game, and the season, from the Suns.