In a contest where either reaching 20 wins or 60 losses first was on the line, Phoenix opened up sluggish but started to catch a groove soon thereafter.
Josh Jackson once again put together a strong outing without Devin Booker or T.J. Warren to help carry the scoring burden, but there were plenty of moments where others shined against the Sacrament Kings on Tuesday night.
The losing streak by the Suns, a franchise record 15 straight, has now finally been snapped. With now a 2 game lead on the Grizzlies with three to play in the reverse standings, it will be interesting to see if we get a glimpse of Booker again this season or officially shut down.
We should know a clearer answer once we inch closer towards Friday’s matchup against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Suns - Tyler Ulis, Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss
Kings - De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson, Vince Carter, Willie Cauley-Stein
In a matchup where development was ahead of the scoreboard, that’s where I’ll be focusing on in this one. And to the surprise of nobody, this game began with Jackson immediately forcing his way to the rim at will. I lost track midway through the second quarter once it got above five attempts, but Jackson is giving the vibe of someone who is going to make a living at the rim for most of his career.
On nights like this where he was tasked to shoot 20 or more times, he tends to be way overaggressive. However, when he will be tasked as a secondary option next season, this near month trial period will benefit him greatly heading into this summer.
Outside of working on his handle and jump shot, Jackson has proved over the last few weeks just how far he’s come since November where he could barely contribute.
One instance that Jackson should improve on happened actually multiple times. When he drove, the defenses tended to funnel his way. Once Jackson realizes these situations, that could unlock a gold mine worth of playmaking potential.
The Suns started off with an awful effort in the first 6 minutes trailing 12-6, but they settled down from there to take the lead and make it competitive from there.
Another area outside of Jackson that I quickly latched onto was Bender crashing the boards and being more aggressive, at least in the beginning. Not only did Bender draw contact, but he was beating his man down the floor.
Now, why in the world did he stop doing this after the first sequence once again? He did this against Golden State on Sunday, so his streakiness in terms of aggressiveness out of him.
Where Jackson struggles to reign that in, Bender needs to somehow dial that in more often.
Bender just blocked Bogdanovic at the rim leading to a Jackson slam in transition. That could be a sign of things to come heading into 2018-2019, but I need to see more progressions on both ends out of 2016’s No. 4 pick first.
In a similar circumstance, Danuel House took advantage of his time sent his way by Jay Triano. He checked right in and drained a three-pointer less than 10 seconds later.
It’s safe to say not only House has earned this time, but he’s making a case for a training camp invite next season. If he’s able to consistently hit from the perimeter alongside plus defensive instincts, he strikes me as someone they wouldn’t mind bringing in for another look in September.
End 1st: Suns and Kings are tied, 22-22
Much like the first, Jackson began this quarter with running towards the rim and converting a dunk by splitting through the trap. That’s not something I thought we would see Jackson get better at reading this quickly.
I mention this all the time, but I’m very confident in Jackson taking a big developmental jump in his sophomore season in the pros. Once his shot starts falling with an improved stroke, Jackson could become a two-way monster.
Alex Len three-pointer alert? Alex Len three-pointer alert. Thought I would just let everyone know that actually happened in the first half.
Jackson has kicked it into a higher gear tonight, especially attacking the rim, but his handle tonight has been way looser than normal. In the first half alone, Jackson had one turnover but two situations he was lucky not to lose the ball.
Outside of Bogdanovic keeping Sacramento close, the Suns actually did well in the second quarter outscoring them 24-18.
Jackson led all scorers with 18 points alongside 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block on 7-13 field goal attempts. House also chipped in 5 quick points off the bench.
Halftime: Suns 46, Kings 40
The Suns actually opened this half with some vigor. They widened their lead quickly out to double-digits and maintained it near there up until the final few minutes. Sacramento not only had a run, but they couldn’t miss for a few minutes at one point.
Midway through the third, there was an awesome sequence I had to write down. Ulis slithered his way around some traffic, literally spun around somebody, and then instantaneously hit Bender underneath the rim for an easy dunk. That was a fun moment and the first on-court chemistry I’ve seen from those two in a while.
A few possessions later after his dunk, Bender was jumping up and down in the restricted area asking for Ulis to feed him. Unfortunately, he didn’t, but that’s a positive sign right there that he’s at least asking for it.
This was when the Kings began to go on their run to close the gap and I witnessed my first Fox moment. In-person, this rookie guard is an absolute blur when he turns on the jets.
In transition, Fox not only flew by Ulis and Jackson, but he hit Bogdanovic with a beauty of a pass in the corner who passed it right off to Jackson for a wide-open three. Those are types of sequences that leave your mouth agape when witnessing a speed demon like Fox orchestrate an offense.
As mentioned earlier, the Kings quickly dropped the Suns’ lead down to four in about two minutes of real time. That’s how quickly momentum can flip in a Suns game.
Not only did Jackson, Ulis, Harrison, and Bender all had moments that quarter but the Suns still led.
End 3rd: Suns 73, Kings 69
One little thing that I’m noticing more is how Chriss and Bender are focusing more on securing the rebound before getting out ahead in transition. If they both finish with 10+ rebounds, Bender currently with 7 and Chriss with 9 above 7 minutes to go, this would be the first time that’s occurred simultaneously.
Compared to even a few weeks ago, that’s a small adjustment by those two that should help them incrementally progress in that facet of the game.
Also, it should be stated that House is definitely an NBA player. In only 21 minutes thus far, House is up to a 12-6-5 line. I did not expect that one bit, and he’s sort of already producing more in Davon Reed’s role.
I don’t know whether that is a good or bad thing that an undrafted second-year player is outperforming the No. 32 pick in the 2017 Draft. Either way, it’s good to see House produce in these minutes that could very well lead to him landing somewhere this summer on the open market if it’s not Phoenix.
Jackson just now committed his second foul with only 5 minutes remaining. Outside of his other improvements, him being able to control his temper is an underrated aspect of why he’s blossoming at the moment.
As Bogdanovic drained another shot from the outside to bring his point total up to 16, it clipped Phoenix’s lead down to a 9-point deficit.
At this point, it’s looking like the Suns are on the verge of finally winning a game for the first time since February 28 at Memphis.
Indeed, the Suns did snap the losing streak on the shoulders of the new and improved version of Josh Jackson alongside other strong moments from others.
All of the sudden, the Kings made this a game with only seconds remaining after they couldn’t stop missing from beyond the arc. Not only was Bogdanovic still firing away, but Jackson and Fox now were, too.
Bender was forced to call a timeout on the inbounds, leading to more late-game drama in Talking Stick Resort Arena. Remember, this game was all but wrapped a few moments ago.
Wow, House just turned it over with 7 seconds left. Kings have a chance to force overtime with a made three-pointer.
However, in the end, the Suns scrapped by for a hard-fought victory to snap their skid.
Final: SUNS WIN! SUNS WIN!