After taking a 104-97 lead with 3 minutes to go last night, the Suns were outscored 10-0 in that game and then got pasted in Phoenix tonight. It wasn't even close, which was a first for the Suns this season. Only a late rush of threes by the Suns gave this game any life at all.
Coming into their 11th game, the Phoenix Suns were one of only two teams in the league NOT to lose any games by more than double-digits points yet.
And they still haven't, losing 113-106. So, that's something.
28 other teams had been pasted by 10+ at least one time already, but the Suns and HEAT. At halftime of the Suns most lackluster effort of the season, it occurred to me that this Suns team looked a lot like the 2012-13 Suns. Lots of midrange jumpers, lots of bail-out shots at the end of the clock. And a disengaged set of players.
Into the fourth quarter, the stagnant nature of the game permeated. When Travis Outlaw scored five point in two possessions, it felt like the kill shot. It was an 18 point lead with about 8 minutes left.
But then Sacramento took their foot off the gas and the Suns suddenly found themselves in the game. The Suns cut the lead to seven and then to six at one point on hero-ball threes.
But it's hard to have a comeback if you're allowing scores to the other team every time down. The Kings started getting into the lane with regularity, forcing foul calls at the end of shot clocks time after time after time. Cousins. Thomas. Vasquez.
And then it was over. The Kings were into free throws for the rest of the game. Vasquez made 9 straight at one point, with Isaiah Thomas sprinkling in two of his own.
While the Suns wilted a night before, the Kings played like seasoned veterans - getting free throws and easy shots any time they wanted.
The Phoenix Suns came out fast and furious to the Kings sluggish pace, with Goran Dragic getting 11 points in the first 4.5 minutes, outscoring the Kings by 3.
But then the Kings turned it one by hustling on the boards, turning several offensive rebounds into 10 second-chance points to keep the game tied at 27-all after one.
The second quarter was not the Suns friend. Led by two rookies, two Morrii and an Ish, the Suns got rolled early in the second, allowing an 8-point Kings lead in the first three minutes. The Suns tried to fight back a few times, getting within three points a couple of times, but the Kings were just playing too well.
This was a 2-7 Kings team going nowhere fast before they encountered a back-to-back against the Suns.
Gerald Green was on fire for the Suns, becoming their only offensive weapon for a while in the second. He had 20 points in the first half alone on decisive jumpers, including 5 of 6 three-pointers.
This time it's the Suns' turn to be down at halftime at home, but thankfully only by 5 behind Green's onslaught of jumpers. Green and Dragic had 33 of the Suns' 50 first-half points.
Archie Goodwin played hard, but was 0-6 in the first half.
Despite what it looked like, the Suns had just as many offensive rebounds in the first half (8) as the Kings. Yet, the Kings created 15 second-chance points on those 8 boards, while the Suns only got 6. Effort.
At the start of the second half, the Kings came out just as focused while the Suns skated along on slow cuts, screens and passes. Things went from bad to worse. After getting outscored by 30 in one stretch against the Nets last Friday, the Suns came out flat in the third quarter again on Wednesday night at home.
These kinds of efforts don't endear you to a fanbase.
It was a 13-point deficit in the third pretty quick, as the Suns scored only 5 points in 9+ minutes against 7 turnovers. I mean, you can't even point out the field goal to turnovers ratio. Or the field goal ATTEMPTS to turnovers ratio. It was the total points to turnovers... oy.
The worst play of the third quarter was Marcus Morris trying to throw the lob from the 3-point line to his brother, who was being fronted under the basket. Marcus apparently thought it was someone else under the basket. When has Markieff jumped from a standstill off two feet even to the rim, let alone when being bodied up? What was Marcus thinking?
Anyway, as you might guess, the ball went untouched out of bounds. Another turnover. Kings ball.
The Suns ended up scoring only 12 points in the entire third quarter. I smell a frustrated postgame locker room coming on.
Then Travis Outlaw made a three pointer and a long two to open the fourth, and more light went out of the Suns sails. The Suns were really hesitant on offense, hesitant on defense. Just bad all around.
At least the Suns won't have the frustration of barely losing in the final seconds this time.
This team on the floor tonight - all 11 guys that have played - have been a collective buzzkill together. Nothing going. No confidence. No brashness. Dragic was all alone on his fast breaks again, playing with the backups as time wound inexscoribly down. No 2013-14 version. Just the same old last-season Suns. A collective Morris night.
That's the dregs, folks.
Notes from the first half:
After losing in the final seconds -- for the third time in a row -- the Phoenix Suns try to get revenge less than 24 hours against the Kings as part of a home-and-home series against their Pacific Division foe.
The Suns and Kings are in the middle of a home-and-home against each other. The Suns couldn't hold a solid second-half lead against a bad team, allowing the Kings to tie the game at 95-95 with 6 minutes to play and folding for a 10-0 Kings run to end the game.
The Suns now are on a three-game losing streak, with back-to-back-to-back last second losses by a total of 6 points.
The Kings have been bad this year. Eight of their first ten games at home, yet only going 3-7 with one of the worst defenses in the league and a barely better offense.
Yet they beat the Suns once again. The Suns have been bad against the Kings the last few years, especially in Sacramento.
DeMarcus Cousins has eaten the Suns centers for lunch. Cousins went off for 19 first-half points, despite the Suns taking an 8-point lead into halftime, before hurting his shoulder and becoming an afterthought in the second half until he was a difference-maker at the end of the 4th in the 10-0 run with steals, rebounds and scores.
The Suns still can't consistently get Bledsoe and Dragic on the court together. Last night, it was Bledsoe's turn to miss the game and Dragic struggled to run the team at the end of the game when it got tight.
Archie Goodwin showed flashes of his summer league self in that second quarter last night - scoring 12 points on 5-7 shooting and making a 3-ball, but also creating three of those shots thanks to his defense with breakaway steals in the second quarter.
In fact, the entire team got hot for a while there during a 19-2 team run that included several threes in a row, including one from 19-year old Goodwin.
Marcus Morris was hot as well, making his first five jumpers and drawing shooting fouls to the tune of 14 first-half points, and 19 for the game overall.
And then there was Gerald Green with his season high
In the "bad" column, we got downside of the big yoyo called Markieff Morris. After being the best player in the WC for a week, he's been really bad for the past week. I mean, really bad. Last night: 3 points, 0 rebounds. 5 personal fouls in 10 minutes of play. Take a seat, young man.
And then there's Goran Dragic, who had almost as many turnovers (7) as assists (8) on the night.
The Suns are supposedly a much better defensive team than the Kings, and even a little better on offense. A check through the stats shows you why.
It's probably going to be a game-time decision on whether leading scorer Eric Bledsoe will play in Phoenix after missing last night's game due to a shin bruise. If he sits, Gerald Green slides into the starting lineup at SG while Dragic becomes the full-time PG.
Any matchup against DeMarcus Cousins is a tough matchup, but the Suns have no success no matter who defends the guy. Cousins is just a beast. So it's not really a key matchup.
Let's say the real matchup is the rookie shooting guards, Archie Goodwin vs. Ben McLemore. It's not that they play against each other necessarily, as McLemore starts while Goodwin sometimes doesn't get big minutes off the bench. But Suns fans will remember that McLemore was at one point considered the #1 prospect in college last season and he was available when the Suns picked at #5. The Suns passed on Ben in order to take Alex Len, and then they drafted Archie Goodwin at #29.
Last night, Goodwin had his best game of the year with 16 points on 7-10 shooting with 2 assists and 2 steals in 19 minutes of play - all career highs (in a 10-game rookie career). Six of his points were on breakaways off a Kings turnover - two of them created by Goodwin himself. Goodwin was very good last night.
McLemore has had a lot more opportunity to play, playing in all 10 games for the Kings and starting four of them so far. Ben has had four games of 10+ points with 6 games at less than 10. When he's good, he's good. But just like any rookie, he disappears as well. He's making 36% of his threes, but just 38% overall.
Suns win at home. For the good of their psyche.
The Suns are the only NBA team to lead in every fourth quarter, yet they are tied at 5-5. Does that mean that close games - those that come down to the wire - often have random outcomes that eventually even out?
If so, then the ball is likely to start bouncing the Suns' way again soon.