The Phoenix Suns entered the fourth quarter with a 88-77 lead, but struggled to score the rest of the night and lost in double overtime to the Sacramento Kings, 114-112, even after Boogie Cousins fouled out in regulation.

In the pregame, Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said the Suns had to control the boards and keep the Kings off the foul line. But the Kings dominated the glass (60 rebounds to the Suns 42) and eventually pulled away from the Suns for a 114-112 win in double overtime.

Rudy Gay made the go-ahead bucket in the final minute of double OT.


The game started with the obligatory Miles Plumlee post up, but this time Plumlee shocked everyone in the gym by making his hook shot. I think even Miles was a bit shocked.

From there, Miles played well by tipping balls away from Cousins and committing a necessary foul on a fast break to make sure Ben McLemore didn't get too comfortable.  Then he made a jumper and another hook, all net. Where has this Plumlee been?

The Suns were active on defense, getting their hand on a lot of Kings shots in the first quarter, and on offense, by cutting to the basket on the weak side when the defender turned their head. Every Suns starter scored in the first five minutes of the game.

And then Goran became Goran again. The Phoenix rose from the ashes and became a Dragon. Breathing FIRE.

Halfway through the first quarter, coach Hornacek replaced Eric Bledsoe with P.J. Tucker and for the first time I can remember this season, the Suns were the Suns of February 2014 again. Dragic flanked by Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Alex Len (for Plumlee) and Marcus Morris. A PG, a big and some shooter.

And Dragic went OFF. By the end of the first quarter, Dragic had 10 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds and more than anything looked like himself.

The Suns led 36-25 at the end of one.

Isaiah Thomas came into the game to start the second quarter and immediately became tentative. The Suns had an 11-point lead without him, so he didn't need to be a hero. But that just resulted in a 8-point run by Sacramento highlighted by 4 missed threes by the Suns (2 by Tucker, 1 by Green, 1 by Thomas) plus a traveling call on Shavlik Randolph because the tried to run himself off the line.

Hornacek, predictably, called a timeout. Presumably, he told them it's legal to shoot inside the line. In the Suns' defense, though, every one of those threes was WIIIIIDE open. Just missed em.

The Suns power outage lasted halfway through the second, but then when Bledsoe came back (and later Goran) the team got back on track to outpace the Boogie Cousins show. Cousins didn't take a shot in the first quarter, but then got himself going with drives into the lane.

At one point, P.J. Tucker ripped Plumlee a new one with his (lack of) fundamental defense on Cousins. After a great first quarter, Plumlee started becoming Cousins' sparring partner (you know, the kind who lets you win every time).

By halftime, Cousins had 10 free throw attempts (5 shooting fouls) simply by driving head down to the rim from just inside the three point line. Neither Len nor Plumlee could stop him, and the refs rewarded it.

Suns up only 3 at halftime, partially on the benefit of a Rudy Gay two-foot-step-back-for-three that was such an obvious travel that every single person in the arena saw it except the ref who was standing three feet away and who's only job at the moment was to call Gay's shot. He was quick enough to hold up the arm to indicate a three immediately, meaning HIS EYES WERE ON GAY'S FEET THE WHOLE TIME.

Anyway, I'll move on. They didn't call a couple of travels on Bledsoe either, but at least his were in traffic.

Suns up 58-55 at half.

The second half started with a Kieff jumper, followed by a Collison drive to the hoop for a foul. Cousins was back into passive form and the Suns built a 7-point lead that soon stretched to 9 on a Bledsoe feed from a sweet driving pass by Dragic on a fast break. When the Suns play with aggression, they look pretty good.

And then they stopped being aggressive. The Kings scored on three straight drives to the rim (one by Cousins, two by Collison) to pull within three.

Then Hornacek put in Isaiah Thomas to team with Dragic and they scored five on the next two possessions - an assist by Thomas and then a three by Thomas. After being disengaged, or tentative, in the first half he came out more aggressive in the second half.

But it was once again the Goran Dragic show. The Dragon shredded the Kings D like a politician ahead of the auditor's visit. You might recall that I called Dragic getting his first three and scoring 20+ points in the game preview.

Dragic had 20 points at the end of three. Bledsoe has 16. The Suns are 17-0 when both score 16+ points.

Suns up 88-77.

The fourth quarter opened a little sloppy, highlighted by Gerald Greens shots bricks but the Kings didn't have any firepower out there either so the Suns maintained a good lead.

Miles Plumlee continued where he left off in the first quarter and quietly is sporting the game of his season. He had 13 points, 10 rebounds and only 2 fouls with eight minutes left.

The Kings went on another 6-0 run to cut the Suns lead to four, and Hornacek called a timeout with 6:04 left to get Dragic back in the game. But that didn't help.

Cousins tied the game soon after on free throws, at 94-94. So much for that 11 point lead to start the fourth.

Cousins is a beast, and is still in that part of his career where he gets the benefits of touch foul calls on his drives but is able to heavily body up the other guy without calls. Cousins had to "work" for his three fouls, as two were in the open court after a bad Kings play.

The teams stayed tied, or within two points, for next few minutes. At least one fight almost broke out.

The Kings took a lead on another DeMarcus Cousins three-point play the old fashioned way. With bludgeoning. Cousins has 25 and 18, but with five fouls was taken out on defense in the final minute.

The Suns scored on a Bledsoe layup and then Cousins was lost to an offensive foul on the next play. A questionable one, but we'll take it.

On the next possession, Marcus Morris missed a WIIIIIIDE open jumper and Plumlee missed an easy putback, but the Kings missed and it was Suns ball with 9.8 seconds left and the game tied.

Isaiah Thomas came back into the game for the final possession. Hydra time. But the Suns final possession failed badly and the game went to overtime.

OT baby! First time against Sac since 2008.

Without Cousins, the Kings didn't really have a good offensive answer. Marcus Morris and Tucker played good D on Rudy Gay, forcing two contested misses around three made shots by the Suns.

Once again, after the Suns took a comfortable seven point lead, the Kings came back to score on three straight possessions and pull within one. Bledsoe didn't help matters with two consecutive ball handling turnovers (giving him four for the night) where he simply lost the ball on the perimeter.

But Bledsoe kept possession on the next play, a long contested three, and the Kings came back down with a chance to take the lead but luckily for the Suns they only tied it. The Suns did not score in the last 3.5 minutes of overtime. Of their seven overtime points, P.J. Tucker had 5 of them.

The Kings had the ball with a chance to win it with 14.6 seconds left. But Rudy Gay dribbled the ball off his leg and ran out the clock on a heave.

Double OT! Game tied at 106-106.

The Suns struggled in OT as well, but held the lead with 2.5 minutes to go. But then the Kings took the lead on a three by McLemore and a jumper by Gay. And then Dragic missed another jumper and Sacramento had the ball. They missed a wide open shot but Carl Landry got the offensive board to save the Kings night.

The Suns had a final chance to tie (with 2) or win (with 3) but P.J. Tucker missed a contested corner three and Morris missed a fallaway jumper.

The Kings win, 114-112. All without Boogie.

Man, the Suns gave this game away.

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The Phoenix Suns need a win in a big way, and Isaiah Thomas wants to beat his former team badly. The Kings come to town, though, with a 4-1 record looking to disappoint the valley in another Orange Friday game.

In the season's second Orange Friday game (7pm AZ time on FoxSports Arizona), the Phoenix Suns (3-2) face the surging Sacramento Kings (4-1) in what promises to be a fast-paced game. The Kings run hard (5th in pace) to get into early offense and draw fouls, while the Suns run hard (7th in pace) to score as quickly as possible or shoot a three ball.

New Suns backup point guard Isaiah Thomas will surely want to show his former team what they are missing.

"I want to beat those guys (the Kings)," Thomas said on Wednesday night. "That's a pretty good team over there. Obviously I want to play well. I want to show those guys they made a mistake, but at the same time it's about winning. It's about doing what's best."

The Kings

Isaiah Thomas' old team is off to a raucous 4-1 start, feeling quite good about themselves and their new "pass-happy" offense. I put the "pass-happy" in quotes because Kings players have said they feel like the ball is moving a lot better than ever. Yes, the Kings are passing more - up to 294 passes per game vs. just 270 last year (last in the league by far). Factoring in their faster pace this season, that's one more pass every fifth possession.

Where the Kings are truly thriving is at the free throw line. In five games, the Kings lead the NBA in free throw attempts (40) and makes (32.6) per game. That's a whopping 57.4% more points per game on free throws than they averaged all last season. New pickup Darren Collison is averaging 6.8 free throw attempts (FTA) per game, Rudy Gay 9.2 and DeMarcus Cousins 9.8. Gay and Collison have so far nearly doubled their career FTA averages, on a per-minute basis. Outside of free throws, the Kings offense has declined dramatically. Their three-point attempt rate is 28th in the league (down 25%). Their overall field goal % has declined as well.

On the plus side, the Kings defense has improved a great deal. The Kings are outrebounding their opponents by 9 per game (47 vs. 38.2) and allowing fewer three-point makes. They are allowing more three-point attempts to the opposition (again, 28th worst in the league) than last year, but the opponents are making only 27% of them so far. Put those together, and the Kings are in the top half of the league on defense this season.

The Suns

Welp, the Suns are still trying to find their groove. The depth of the team has eaten into everyone's playing time and left some of them wondering what their role is. Of course, the simple answer is that you play the role you're given. The more difficult answer is that the role you're given is not always the one you like to hear.

It's the coach's job to define those roles as clearly as possible, and then once they are defined to provide an environment for success. Coach is still experimenting with different groupings of players in pressure situations. It appears that the first month of the season is a science experiment. So far, the only real positive answers are that Markieff Morris is still good and predictable, Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green are scoring machines off the bench, and Alex Len is a guy who can develop into a real player.

The Suns are 3-2 largely because they played one good game (last Orange Friday, over San Antonio) and then had the Lakers twice. The supersized Grizzlies and Jazz were bad matchups last year and they will be bad matchups again this season.

The Suns don't have much room to talk on passing. Last year, they threw the second-fewest passes in the league (Kings were last), and this year they are slightly worse (268.6 passes per game vs. 270). Still, the Suns assist total is steady, and their drive-and-kick scheme is fine as long as players are making their jump shots. So far this season, that hasn't been the case since opening night.

Last year's Suns-Kings series

Unfortunately for Suns fans, the Kings are a bad matchup too. On November 19 and 20 last year, the Suns lost a home-and-home b-2-b to the Kings when Eric Bledsoe missed both (shin). DeMarcus Cousins roasted the Suns (27 and 12 in game 119 and 12 in game 2) as did Isaiah Thomas (19 and 3 in game 1, 23 and 4 in game 2 off the bench). Goran Dragic had one good game (31 points) and one bad (10). Gerald Green was good in both games, as was Marcus Morris. But Markieff Morris was a complete non-factor in both.

The Suns were much better in the last two matchups with the Kings when Eric Bledsoe was available to form the Slash Brothers. Bledsoe and Dragic combined for 57 points as the Suns cruised to a 116-107 home victory. Isaiah Thomas was a starter by that time, after Vasquez was traded for Rudy Gay. Thomas threw up 29 points and 6 assists in the loss while DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 16 rebounds. The final matchup was the season-ender, where Archie Goodwin scored 29 glorious points to help the Suns finish on a high note after being eliminated from the playoffs.

The Stats

The (potential) Lineups

The Key Matchup

Obviously, one key matchup here is DeMarcus Cousins and whoever is guarding him. Cousins has been the best big man in the league so far this season and it might not even be close. His scoring is up a bit from last season (24 PPG va. 22.7), his shooting percentage has improved (51% vs. 49%) and he's getting to the free throw line at an incredibly high rate (9.8 attempts per game). The Suns will counter with Miles Plumlee and Alex Len, who will both be physically overwhelmed but just need to limit their fouls enough to make sure DeMarcus doesn't beat the Suns singlehandedly.

The other obvious key matchup is Isaiah Thomas vs. Darren Collison. Collison has come out like a house on fire for the Kings, with career highs all over the board in total stats but shooting poorly (as you might expect of a player given more minutes than ever). Thomas has come to the Suns with that famous chip on his shoulder, leading the team with a 18.7 PPG average with high shooting %. The Suns' clear advantage is that Thomas is only the third best point guard on the Suns. Collison will have to battle with physical starter Eric Bledsoe first, then speedy Thomas second and a bit of crafty Dragic in there as well.

Out on a limb

Goran Dragic is due for a breakout game. You simply cannot go an entire season without making a three pointer after making better than 40% of them the year before.

I predict Dragic will score 20+ points tonight with 2 or 3 three-pointers in there.

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Final Prediction

The Kings are off to a hot start but some of the numbers look like the poster child for "small sample size". Still, they are more physical than the Suns and that's a recipe for winning.

Yet while the Kings, especially DeMarcus Cousins, can be tough they also play into the Suns hands by playing at a fast pace. The Kings are 5th in pace, so the Suns might just be able to shake off some early-season doldrums with a free and easy game plan.

Isaiah Thomas scores about 30 points against his old team, and the Suns cruise to a 115-105 win.

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