I don’t want to focus much on the first 40 minutes of the Phoenix Suns’ huge comeback win over the Sacramento Kings, especially since so much felt off.
Much of the deficit can be chalked up to contributions from players like De’Aaron Fox — who the Suns had a chance to take in the 2017 NBA Draft, choosing Josh Jackson instead — having shots blazing. He’s really become a high-level of shooter that not many could’ve predicted when he came out of Kentucky.
Some of his friends, such as Sasha Vezenkov, Malik Monk, and Kevin Huerter chipped in to dig the Suns a hole, but Phoenix also had some screws loose offensively, and the officials weren’t helping.
Instead, let’s take a look at some of the moments that galvanized the fourth-largest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA history, as well as one sequence that helped set it up.
0. Suns go on an 11-2 run late in the third
With Phoenix down 20 points and the score reading 92-72, Devin Booker entered maestro mode, dishing out three assists over the Suns’ next four baskets. They were as close as 11 points away at two junctures late in the third frame, giving them some room for what was about to follow.
1. Down 22 with 8:22 left, Booker remained in maestro mode
Booker started off a 32-8 run by assisting on three Suns baskets in a row, kicking off the run with a 7-0 spurt which also featured a nice block from Josh Okogie on Monk.
Booker came up empty on his only shot in the fourth quarter but added another assist late to finish with 11 assists on a night where he shot 5-of-14 from the field for just 16 points.
2. Suns go small
For the final seven minutes and change, Kevin Durant manned the center spot, something he had done in just 5% of his minutes entering the night, according to Basketball Reference.
The Suns took another step toward hyper-optimization when Eric Gordon entered the game to replace Josh Okogie at the 5:11 mark, leaving Durant surrounded on the perimeter by Booker, Bradley Beal, Grayson Allen and Gordon; five elite shooters on the court.
The five-man combo — which could end up being Phoenix’s “death lineup” — was +19 in the 311 seconds it played, allowing just four points from a high-octane Kings offense.
Sacramento countered by pulling Domantas Sabonis, leaving Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes as the Kings’ 4-5 pairing. It did not help. Sabonis came back in after less than 50 seconds.
3. Shutting down the Fox show
With just over two-and-a-half minutes left, Durant blocked a Fox 3-point attempt and hit his own in transition coming the other way. Then, Fox fouled Gordon the next time Sacramento was on defense.
Fox shot 1-for-3 over the final minutes thereafter, a stretch that included two Gordon 3s, the latter tying the game.
4. Durant seals it at the line
Although Fox had an incredible game for the first 45 minutes or so, finishing with 33 points (6-for-10 on 3s) and six assists, his late-game struggles culminated in fouling Durant with 1.6 seconds to go and the game tied.
The all-time great knocked down both.
Sacramento was able to advance the ball upcourt with their final timeout, but the Suns played it well enough to force Monk into a tough 3-pointer that almost went in off glass, but the Suns got out with the win.
Every bucket from the Suns 32-8 run that lead them to a huge comeback victory pic.twitter.com/ddTM0asLR8— NBA (@NBA) January 17, 2024
The Suns are now 8-3 over their last 11 and are now riding a three-game win streak. With one game standing between them and the halfway point, the Suns are 1.0 games back of No. 7 in the West — coincidentally the Kings — and 1.5 games back of a tie for No. 5.