The Suns beat the Kings, 116-115, on Monday night to move to 1-2 on the season and secure one of the most needed victories in NBA game four history.
To begin as do-or-die a fourth regular season game as there has ever been for this franchise, the Suns set the tone. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the youngsters do that, but when they play quickly and focus on movement in the halfcourt, the offense can click. Focused around the Mike James-Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll, the Suns got out to a quick 9-2 lead.
Marquese Chriss set the tone in the initial frame, scoring 10 points on perfect 4-4 shooting and two 3s. Perhaps starting really does boost Chriss’s confidence in a way that can help the Suns in the future. It sure makes simple pick-and-roll action look better when Chriss is spacing the floor like he did tonight.
Defensively, the Kings helped out quite a bit by missing open shots to start the game. The Suns looked surprised by Zach Randolph’s range outside the paint, leaving him open for a couple attempts early. He and George Hill started out 0-4 combined, and the Suns took advantage.
Altogether, it was about as good a performance as one might expect to open Interim Coach Jay Triano’s first game.
The second quarter was almost as lopsided in the Kings’ favor as the first was for the Suns. James, Booker and Co. made it too easy for the Kings to defend them, getting away too often from the motion and pace that helped them build their first-quarter lead.
De’Aaron Fox finished the first half as a plus-nine in 14 minutes, with 11 points and two steals. He was the engine for the Kings’ offensive performance in the second. His teammates got on him about his defense once or twice as they watched Mike James maintain his production against Fox, but overall the No. 5 overall pick was excellent.
The Suns’ breakdowns prompted Triano to pull Jared Dudley, in his first game back from injury, off the bench to play the last four minutes of the half. Unfortunately, those minutes came surrounded by a bizarre group: James, Troy Daniels, T.J. Warren and Tyson Chandler. The unit struggled to score, and the Kings went into the locker room down just eight.
Both teams made plenty of mistakes in this one, and if it weren’t for some timely shot-making on both sides, the game might have become pretty unwatchable in the third quarter. Fortunately, Daniels and Josh Jackson matched big threes by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield and Justin Jackson to maintain the Suns’ lead.
Buddy Hield taking over the 3rd, he has 10pts & 3stls in the 1st 6 minutes of the qtr. PHX still up 72-64 behind 15pts from Booker & Chriss— Jon Bloom (@JonBloom) October 24, 2017
Chriss continued to make a difference on offense, and his play encouraged Triano to put him back in after a quick stint for Bender at around the six minute mark of the period. He immediately scored three on and-one and assisted a Daniels corner three.
The guys who showed up throughout the game were the ones to close it: Mike James scored consistently when the offense broke down late in the shot clock; Chriss finished up the best game of his career with a bouncy putback dunk; and Devin Booker answered with a pull-up 3 to keep Sacramento at bay after they went on a run.
Triano put his faith in Jackson to close the game at the three despite starting T.J. Warren, and Jackson answered with the defense and athleticism we’ve already come to expect, forcing and winning a tip-off on the Kings’ end of the court with less than a minute to play.
Finally, James bailed the Suns out after tremendous defense by the Kings’ two point guards took Phoenix out of their initial set to free Booker for a shot. The layup that showed the league he was here for good:
The first Suns win of the season was sealed when Sacramento’s Garrett Temple missed one of his two free throws with 12 seconds left in the game.