The Phoenix Suns dropped their second straight preseason game, losing at Sacramento 107-97. The Suns dominated on the glass (50-39) and shot better from the field (48-43 edge in shooting percentage with four more made field goals), but they doubled up the Kings in turnovers (28-14) and the free-throw disparity was laughable (the Suns were 7-20 while the Kings were 26-36).
Not only did the Suns lose the game, but they also lost point guard Goran Dragic to an ankle injury early in the second half.
The Suns jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead, but Sacramento answered with a 12-2 run of their own to take a 15-12 lead. Phoenix tied the game at 17-17 on an Eric Bledsoe technical free throw before taking a 19-17 lead on a jumper by Markieff Morris. However, the Kings scored the last eight points to lead 25-19 after one quarter of play.
The Suns scored the first two buckets of the 2nd quarter to trim the lead to two, but the Kings pushed it back to six at 31-25. Phoenix tied it back up at 31-apiece, but then things began to go wrong. Sacramento built a double-digit lead, outscoring the Suns 22-11 to go up 53-42. The Suns scored on each of their last four offensive possessions (a post-up by P.J. Tucker, a 20-foot pull-up by Eric Bledsoe, another post-up by Tucker and a drive and scoop shot by Bledsoe) and got a couple stops to keep themselves in the game heading into the break.
DeMarcus Cousins was a monster in the first half, destroying everyone he matched up with and getting to the free-throw line at will. He finished with 23 points and seven rebounds at the break. His final stat line reads 29 points, nine rebounds and 13-18 from the stripe in 27 minutes as he didn't need to play much in the second half.
The Second half got off to a rough start. The Suns badly missed their first three shots (all long jumpers) and turned the ball over once while the Kings scored twice, stretching the lead back to double digits at 61-50. Then things went from bad to worse, as Goran Dragic rolled his ankle on a drive while being fouled by Jimmer Fredette. Dragic was carried off the court and was shortly after taken back to the locker room. The official word was a sprained ankle and he was done for the night.
With Dragic out of the line-up and Bledsoe running the show at the point, the two teams traded buckets over the next three minutes. Then Bledsoe orchestrated a 6-0 run with a bucket and two assists to bring the Suns within four at 67-63.
Following a Kings timeout, the game devolved into Jimmer Time. The Suns left the former college superstar open again and again, and Fredette made them pay like he was still at BYU. Fredette hit three long 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the third, then hit two more and scored 10 in the fourth to give him 21 total points, all coming after halftime.
The Suns were only down seven at the start of the fourth quarter, but things quickly got out of hand and the Kings cruised to an easy 17-point victory.
Hornacek plans to use more of a real game look tonight at SAC. #Suns starters: Dragic, Bledsoe, Tucker, Markieff, Gortat. That might stick.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) October 18, 2013
On Tuesday, the Suns lost for the first time under new head coach Jeff Hornacek as Chris Paul did Chris Paul things and was simply too much for the Suns to handle with 24 points and nine assists. It was the first time Eric Bledsoe and, on the other side, Jared Dudley played against their former teams, and Bledsoe finished with eight points and a team-high seven assists while Dudley knocked down five of his seven shots en route to 12 points.
The Clippers jumped out to an early lead, but the Suns came charging back with a strong third quarter. However, a few Dudley jumpers put an end to the run and allowed Los Angeles to pull away. Kendall Marshall entered the game late and nearly brought the team all the way back before the Suns' comeback attempt sputtered with under a minute to go.
Like the Suns, Sacramento has a new coach in Mike Malone as well as a new general manager and, perhaps most importantly, a new ownership group (no more Maloofs!).
The Kings opened the preseason with a loss to the Golden State Warriors before sweeping Los Angeles with wins against the Lakers and Clippers. DeMarcus Cousins dominated the Clippers in the last game with 31 points, although Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (in addition to a few other key Clippers) sat out. Cousins is always a handful (for his coach and for opposing teams alike) and the Suns quartet of centers have to be ready to play.
Over the offseason the Kings acquired point guard Greivis Vasquez from New Orleans, and he made his Sacramento debut against the Clippers, although he only played 11 minutes. We'll probably see more of him tonight as he teams up with Isaiah Thomas and rookie Ray McCallum to form a nice little point guard rotation that will challenge the Suns' backcourt.
The Sacramento backcourt also includes rookie Ben McLemore, who was taken seventh overall in this summer's draft after being passed over by the first six teams (including the Suns). McLemore has been decent so far in the preseason, scoring 13, 12 and seven in the first three games while playing between 20 and 30 minutes in all three.
We won't see free agent addition Carl Landry tonight or for the near future, as he has a hip injury and will be out for quite some time.
What the starting lineup for tonight's game is going to be is anyone's guess; Hornacek has mixed and matched nearly every possible way in the first four games, going so far as to start James Nunnally against the Clippers.
However, in the second half we saw what will likely be the starting five for the regular season as Dragic, Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Gortat came out to open the third quarter and got the Suns back into the game. Perhaps Hornacek is starting to settle down a little bit with only three games left of the preseason.
We saw a lot of Miles Plumlee and none of Alex Len against Los Angeles. I doubt that will be the case again tonight as Len will likely re-enter the rotation and perhaps even get significant minutes. We know what Marcin Gortat is; let's let the rookie get out there and try to adjust to the speed of the NBA game.
I think we'll see a decent amount of the Bledsoe-Dragic backcourt again. Who plays point guard and who plays off the ball at shooting guard will be determined by match-ups more often than not. In the last game, Bledsoe played point while Dragic was unleashed to create havoc against Willie Green at the two. None of the Sacramento guards are really lockdown defenders at this point, so it will be interesting to see how Dragic and Bledsoe split the ball-handling duties.
Kendall Marshall sat most of the game before entering for the first time in garbage time halfway through the fourth quarter. He proceeded to play well and spark a comeback that brought the Suns within one possession before it fell apart. I don't think we're going to see Ish Smith get the call off the bench before Marshall again in this one. At least, we shouldn't.
What do you think Bright Siders? What will the lineups look like tonight? Which players sit this one out?
Make sure to join us on the game thread to discuss tonight's game as it happens. Where else would you rather be on (preseason) game night?