The Phoenix Suns play the second game of a home-and-home series tonight in Phoenix at US Airways Center after losing last night's game in the final seconds. Let's get the inside scoop on the Kings right here.

The Sacramento Kings are a team in transition, trying to implement a new system with many of the same players who struggled for them in recent seasons.

Today, we have a Q and A with Kings writer Greg Wissinger of SB Nation's SacTownRoyalty.com. Let's see what he has to say about his Kings team.

Dave King: How is Michael Malone's tenure going so far? On the surface, it appears to be a rocky road - a 3-7 start with 8 of those 10 at home already. He came in with a reputation for defense, yet the Kings are 25th in defensive efficiency. Is Malone the right fit?

Greg Wissinger: Malone's tenure is off to a rocky start, but a lot of that has to do with the talent, or lack thereof, on the Kings roster. Malone's biggest challenge has been getting guys to provide a consistent effort for a full 48 minutes. As we saw in Tuesday's game, the Kings are still prone to serious lapses and giving up big runs. A lot of this seems to be residual bad habits from past regimes. I think it's a little too early to determine if Malone is the right fit, but so far I've been impressed with him. He puts his money where his mouth is, and I think he's got the organization's support. Long term, I believe he'll help change the culture.

DK: How has DeMarcus Cousins been so up and down, from game to game? After getting a max extension, has he been saying the right things and being a leader?

GW: DeMarcus Cousins has been up and down, sure, but he's been far more up than down. He's already had as many 30 point games as he did all of last season. And although he's still prone to outbursts and complaining, he's been much better this season about maintaining his composure. He's also been hustling back on defense far more than he did in the past. He's also taken responsibility for his actions more than we've ever seen in the past. Thus far, DeMarcus is looking like he's earning that max extension. Of course, it's still early in the year and anything can happen.


DK: Isaiah Thomas has been killing it from the bench (17 and 5), while Grieves Vasquez has been just okay in the starting role (10 and 5) as far the stats indicate. At both playing 27-28 minutes, it appears the Kings do the 2-PG lineup at least occasionally. What's your take on that? And, was Vasquez a good acquisition.

GW: Isaiah Thomas has been fantastic off the bench, while Vasquez's stats have been less gaudy as a starter. But the minute distribution that you mentioned is the key. For the first time in his NBA career, Isaiah Thomas is being given a clearly defined role with reliable minutes. He's a fantastic spark plug off the bench, and I'm personally fine with it. It's also worth remembering that Vasquez was recovering from an ankle injury this offseason, and barely played in preseason. The first few games of this season were essentially his first opportunity to work with his new teammates. Overall, I'm still happy with Vasquez. And while he wasn't the offseason acquisition that Kings fans wanted this offseason, he was a nice return since the Kings decided not to retain Tyreke Evans.

DK: Suns fans are going to watch McLemore for his entire career after the Suns passed on him to draft Alex Len. Did the Kings get a steal in Ben McLemore? How do you see his future playing out?

GW: I think the Kings absolutely got a steal in McLemore. He's been exciting even when he struggles. He's still adjusting to the pace of the NBA, and needs to let the game come to him rather than forcing shots, but I have very high hopes for him. He's a very hard worker, one of the few Kings who gives consistent effort every night, and his shooting stroke is a thing of beauty. I think he has the potential to be a All-Star player, and I'll be shocked if he ends up being anything less than an above average shooting guard in this league.

DK: Finally, do you see the Kings turning this around and coming a winning team with this core, or does the core have to be rebooted?

GW: It's important to remember that most of the current Kings roster is still the roster than was constructed by Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs. There are some good pieces on the current roster, but outside of Cousins and McLemore, there could be a ton of movement. Even Isaiah Thomas might be moved, as much as it would break the hearts of Kings fans. New GM Pete D'Allessandro has a lot of work ahead of him. This current roster can't contend for a playoff spot. But within a year or two, I absolutely expect the roster to be competitive and to look quite a bit different.

For more on the Kings, check out the great coverage over at Sactown Royalty

The Suns let a fourth-quarter lead slip past them and fell to the Kings, 107-104. Phoenix has now lost three straight games by a total of 6 points.

Another close game, another heart-breaking ending for the Phoenix Suns. The Kings defeated Phoenix 107-104 after they went on a 10-0 run late in the game to steal a game the Suns had total control of throughout much of the second half.

First Quarter

The Kings entered the game with a 2-7 record, whereas the Suns were 5-4. Phoenix was missing Eric Bledsoe, who sat out to rest a bruised shin. The Kings came out sharp in the first quarter and took advantage of a surprisingly lethargic Suns defense. Rookie Ben McLemore scored 8 points in the first period and Sacramento took a 33-25 lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter

The second quarter was all Phoenix Suns Marcus Morris and Archie Goodwin. Marcus used up all the twin mojo for the night and gave the Suns a much-needed spark of the bench. Archie also came out with tremendous energy and fueled a 37 point outburst from the Suns in the second quarter, the highest-scoring period of the season for Phoenix. Archie had two fantastic steals and breakaway dunks in the second quarter and even managed to hit a three-pointer. He also celebrated every play he made on the floor tonight with plenty of emotion. It's amazing what some confidence can do for a player like him - he started his night with a strong drive to draw a foul and kept up the energy on the defensive end by forcing turnovers, which led to points on the other end, which in turn gave him the confidence to shoot and make jumpshots.

Third Quarter

The Suns began the second half with an 8-point lead (which was stretched to as much as 15 at one point) and more or less kept pace throughout much of the third quarter. Gerald Green in particular was great during that stretch, making three pointers, throwing down a vicious one-handed slam dunk off of a beautiful dish from Dragic, and even throwing a lob to Miles Plumlee on a fast-break. He and Ben McLemore got into a bit of a competition, as both guys were making similar plays on both ends of the floor.

Fourth Quarter

Phoenix took a 6 point lead into the 4th quarter and maintained their streak of being the only team in the NBA to have led in the final period of every game thus far into the NBA season. However, Kings quickly cut their deficit and the game became a back-and-forth for much of the fourth quarter...until the final three minutes. Gerald Green made a 3-pointer to give the Suns a 7 point lead with 3:35 left and the Kings called a timeout. Following the break, Phoenix failed to score the rest of the game and Sacramento went on a 10-run to close out and leave with a 107-104 win.

The Killer Stretch

Let's take a look at the Suns' offensive possessions in the last 3:35 of the game, which again resulted in ZERO points:

  • 3:04 - Turnover on Dragic
  • 2:33 - Cousins steals the ball from Dragic
  • 2:06 - Ish Smith misses a three-pointer
  • 2:05 - Frye offensive rebound
  • 2:00 - Frye airball
  • 1:29 - 3-second violation on Plumlee
  • 0:59.6 - Turnover on Dragic
  • 0:31.4 - Isaiah Thomas steals the ball from Ish Smith
  • 0:22.9 - Cousins steals the ball from Dragic
  • 0:6.9 - Dragic missed fade-away 17-footer
  • 0:1.9 - Marcus Morris missed three-pointer
  • 0:00 - Gerald Green missed shot from past half-court

In summation, that's 6 turnovers, 5 missed shots and 0 points in crunch time. If you woke up this morning with a burning desire to find the answer to "how to lose a basketball game," you were in luck. Of course, I could also refer you to the majority of Suns games from last season as well if you're into that sort of masochism.

On the Kings' front, Demarcus Cousins has another strong game against Phoenix, finishing with 27 points and 12 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field. Ben McLemore tallied 19 points (5-13 from the field, 4-10 on threes) and 5 rebounds and Isaiah Thomas continued to be Sacramento's super-sub, ending the night with 19 points and 3 assists in just 24 minutes.

The Negatives

Let's get the negatives out of the way first...

  • Goran Dragic's 4th quarter zeroics - Dragic was one of the best crunch-time performers last season (and even in the 2011-12 season in Houston), so his fourth quarter tonight was uncharacteristically atrocious. Dragic struggled with his shot most of the game but did a great job of getting his teammates involved and making fantastic passes throughout most of the game...until the last 4 minutes. Dragic turned the ball over 4 times (!!!) in the last 3 and a half minutes, including twice in the last minute (!!!!!!). He also missed a tough turnaround jumper that would have tied the game with 7 seconds remaining. Isaiah Thomas played strong defense on Dragic most of the night, but Goran's errors at the end of the game were mainly just issues of him trying to force plays, which resulted from the overall offensive stagnation. One game does not make or break a player, so we should consider this an outlier for Goran Dragic.
  • More Goodwin = Less Bad Loss - I think Jeff Hornacek is an absolutely fantastic coach for this team and I'm a big fan, but in these last three losses, he has made some curious decisions at the end of games. In Portland, he took Plumlee out on the last defensive possession, which led to a wide open game-winning layup from Damian Lillard. Tonight, he didn't play Archie Goodwin enough. After a fantastic first half and some good plays in the 4th quarter, Archie left the game with about 8 minutes left and never returned. I understand he's a rookie, but his energy had clearly had a positive effect whenever he was on the floor and he definitely should have seen more time late in the game. Again, this is only the 10th game of Hornacek's coaching career, so we can chalk these up as lessons.
  • Player of the Weak, Markieff Morris: Markieff played 11 minutes tonight and finished with 3 points (all from free throws; he didn't have a single field goal attempt), 0 rebounds, 0 assists and 5 fouls. He was never able to get into rhythm because of foul trouble and was rendered completely ineffective tonight. His fifth foul was a real killer, as he hit Ben McLemore on a three-point attempt with 4 seconds left in the third quarter, which allowed the Kings to cut the Suns' lead to 6 points and carry momentum over to the fourth.

The Positives

  • Archie Amazing - A career high 16 points (7-10 from the field) to go with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and plenty of smiles. Great performance from the rookie tonight and he was clearly enjoying himself. If he played more than 19 minutes, I'm sure we'd all be smiling more right now. MANDATORY REMINDER: Archie Goodwin is 19 years old. Check out Archie's highlights:


  • Marcus Markieff Marcus Markieff Marcus Morris - Marcus was by far the superior twin tonight. He finished the night with 19 points and 3 rebounds in his 24 minutes off the bench. His final shot with 1.9 seconds left (which would have given the Suns the lead) may have missed, but I actually think that was a good play call from Jeff Hornacek - a baseline in-bounds pass from Marcus to Markieff, who passed it back to Mook for the three. However, the spacing wasn't great and Marcus' attempt was contested.
  • Channing Frye - 17 points (7-13 from the field, 3-6 on threes), 9 rebounds, 1 block and a +9 on the night in 30 minutes. He is not a scrub.
  • Alex Len...played - The fact that Len played even 5 minutes is a positive, right? He finished with 0 points and 0 rebounds but he had 1 assist and 1 steal. And he was on the floor! Progress!

This may have been yet another tough loss for Phoenix but as always, there are positives to take away (BRIGHT SIDE, people!). Hopefully, the Suns will start to show that they're actually learning from these experiences by maintaining their leads and closing out games. In fact, they can show that tomorrow night in Phoenix against this same Kings team!

The Suns are the only team in the NBA to hold a lead in the fourth quarter of every game they’ve played this year. But Phoenix, playing without their closer Eric Bledsoe, failed to hold the lead once...

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After two tough losses, the Suns look to bounce back up and get a win on the road in Sacramento.

LET'S GO PHOENIX!


In the first leg of a back-to-back mini-series against the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns travel to Sactown in hopes to breaking a two-game slide and getting back to their anti-tanking ways.

The Phoenix Suns (5-4) will take on familiar division foes, the Sacramento Kings (2-7) on the road tonight in the first game of a back-to-back home-and-away series. Both teams will duke it out again tomorrow night in Phoenix.

Who: Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings

What: An NBA regular season game (the 10th game for both teams)

Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

When: 8:00PM AZ Time (7PM PST/10 PM ET), November 19, 2013

Why: Pacific division battle!

The Suns will look to recover from last week's two heartbreaking losses against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Brooklyn Nets, while the Kings will also be trying to break their own two-game losing streak. Sacramento's two wins have come against the Denver Nuggets and the Brooklyn Nets.

The Opponent: Shaqramento Kings

The Kings are looking to move past the Maloof Brothers era and their new ownership (which includes minority owner Shaquille O'Neal) is determined to do everything it can to rebuild this team back to relevancy. After hiring renowned Assistant Mike Malone to be the franchise's new Head Coach, Sacramento displayed its commitment to the talented by volatile center Demarcus Cousins by signing Boogie to a 4-year, $62 million extension this summer, Sacramento has displayed its commitment to Boogie. DMC is averaging a career-high 21.2 points on 47.5% shooting from the field (also a career-best) to go with 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Also of note: he is yet to be ejected from a game this year (his technical foul tally is currently at 2).

The second-best player for the Kings this season has been 5'9" Isiah Thomas, who was demoted to a bench role after the team acquired point guard Greivis Vasquez from the Hornicans this offseason. Thomas has been fantastic as the Kings' super-sub, averaging 17.8 points on 45.1 FG% and 46.9% 3PT% to go with 4.9 assists per game.

The Kings team as a whole, however, has shot the ball less than ideally through the first 9 games of the season. The team's 41.8 FG% and 31.8 3PT% are in the bottom five among the league's teams. Sacramento also doesn't rebound the ball well, averaging just 39.4 caroms a game - good for third-worst in the league. Bad shooting percentages in tandem with subpar rebounding is not a recipe for success, and the Kings' 2-7 record will attest to that.


Key Match-ups

  • Demarcus Cousins vs. Miles Plumlee: Plumlee has been great for the Suns through nine games and is among the 10 best big men in the league in terms of paint defense. However, after a tough night against Brook Lopez on Friday, he'll have his hands full once again with Cousins, who played very well against Phoenix (and Marcin Gortat, in particular) in 4 games last season.
  • Battle of the Point Guards: The Suns' should have an advantage with an Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic duo against Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas, but it will be an interesting mathcup nonetheless, especially with the way Thomas has been playing. Vasquez is no slouch himself - last season, he lit up the Suns in to the tune of 18 points and 11 assists on 67% shooting (averages over three games).
  • Battle of the Super-sub: Markieff Morris has come back down to earth in the last two games after his amazing "Player of the Week" stretch, and it's no coincidence that the Suns have barely lost both games. The Suns could really use some firepower off the bench from Kieff to combat Isaiah Thomas's production for Sacramento.
  • Battle of the Rookie Shooting Guards: Ben McLemore, picked #7 overall by Sacramento in the 2013 draft, started last game for the Kings. He's likely to play more minutes than the Suns' own rookie shooting guard, Archie GODwin, but it will be interesting to compare their production levels tonight, especially if they match up against each other at any point.

Stay tuned for the game thread an hour before tip-off!

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