A game there for the taking and nearly begging for the Phoenix Suns to shut the door early in the third quarter. But instead the Kings took full advantage of an emotional game and turned the tides.
The Kings would get the crowd engaged with some third-quarter pyrotechnics, as their offense showed up to the party in abundance, and regained a lead late in the third that they would never relinquish.
The Suns would struggle to keep their composure and focus amidst some questionable referee involvement in the game, and their grip on the game would be relinquished, as they'd fall to the Kings, 127-135.
The first half saw the Suns execute upon an apt offensive process. That would be coupled by ample secondary and tertiary defensive efforts, in addition to the requisite physicality needed to compete against this team in a hostile and raucous environment.
Chris Paul would be at the helm setting the table, with 11 assists (23 assist points created) and zero turnovers.
CP3 with the double-double already pic.twitter.com/XyRK8GZgm8— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) March 25, 2023
Devin Booker would put pressure on the Kings (15 points), but displayed great patience and trust in his teammates (even amidst a 2-14 showing from deep) playing off of the double teams the Kings conceded to him.
Booker would bring two to the ball and display a discernment in his decision-making that consistently compromised the Kings defensive rotations as they zoned up behind the double.
He would pick the defense apart in that manner, but also blended a few screen rejects as the defense loaded up on the other side of screens, to put pressure on the rim and play within the advantage.
Direct recipients of the patience and playmaking of the prolific guards were Biyombo (6 points) and Landale (14 points).
Both would establish great feel operating against smaller Kings behind double teams and on the short-roll, then get into an array of finishes in the low-paint while also playing connector and generating “paint to great” looks playing within the advantage.
A quick 12 points in 10 first-half minutes for Jock. pic.twitter.com/bPJbitFfhC— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) March 25, 2023
It all led to the Suns registering 30 points in the first, then 37 (with the bench compiling 30) in the second, amassing a half-court offensive rating of 117.8 - with just four turnovers.
Defensive, the Suns were on schedule and consistently in
Amidst a rash of technical fouls (by Ed Malloy) and questionable calls against the Suns - serving as a test of mental and emotional stamina/composure - the Kings would start the second half 15-7, including an 11-2 run - coming within 5.
That would then balloon to a 31-10 run that saw the Kings capitalize on three consecutive three-point hits in their early offense. Two from Huerter, and one from Murray.
Sacramento would go on a 22-5 run after the initial technical foul, assessed to Devin Booker.
Huerter would come through for Sacramento with 16 points in the 45-point frame.
Kevin Huerter is up to 16 points in the third quarter ALONE. pic.twitter.com/c8uEZtHUuM— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) March 25, 2023
Amidst an up-and-down bout with sustaining both focus and success on the defensive end, was a flurry of scoring from Terrence Ross (to the tune of 30 points).
The Suns would go on a solid run in the middle of the fourth that featured a new lineup.
After early Landale minutes, Monty Williams elected to go with another small ball rendition - this one featuring Paul and Booker with a hot shooting Ross, scoring Warren, and Craig as the center.
That lineup would perform extremely well, but could not overcome the hole they dug themselves in the third-quarter debacle.
A game where they scored 127 in a hostile environment, including 17 points from Landale, 15 points from Warren, and 30 points from Ross, should have been plenty enough.
That was all in addition to the 32 from Booker on 16 shots, plus 15 points and 13 assists from Paul.
Tying in the fourth with 34 points was an equal wash, with the remnants that lingered from the third-quarter deficit persisting on the scoreboard.
Player of the Game
30 points on 16 shots, in 26:47 off the bench, speaks to the potential pyrotechnics he is capable of at any given moment.
He has been a menace in the Booker-style movement actions - via pin-downs, staggers, and dribble hand-offs, and the entire menu was available in this one.
Unfortunately, he and T.J. Warren were targeted defensively in the fourth quarter on side isolations off great ball movement by the Kings to force the right mismatches.