Summing It Up

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.

Telling the Story

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.

Standout Performers

  • Kings' Dynamic Duo: I already mentioned the dominant games by Cousins and Fredette.Those two had nearly half the Kings' points (50 of 107) between them.
  • Markieff Morris: Markieff Morris was the only Sun to truly have a good game. He went off early, scoring 11 quick points in a variety of ways. He knocked down jumpers, showed off a post move or two and crashed the offensive glass. Toss in a couple nice passes and a few hustle plays and you have Keef's best performance of the preseason. Final line: 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, 7-8 shooting and 1-1 from deep in 23 minutes. He single-handedly outscored the two Kings power forwards (Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson) 15-13.
  • Um... Shannon Brown: Shannon actually had a pretty decent game. He finished with 11 points on 5-8 shooting. He made a nice mid-range catch-and-shoot jumper and had a couple nice finishes at the basket. He only showed a glimpse or two of the bad Shannon (I can only remember one really bad play), although the 1-4 shooting from the charity stripe hurts a little bit.

Final Thoughts

  • While Dragic and Bledsoe scored fairly efficiently (20 points on 9-14 shooting combined) they really struggled to run the team and get the offense flowing tonight. Dragic had six turnovers and only three assists, while Bledsoe finished with four turnovers and five assists. They never found a rhythm when they played together tonight, and when one sat down the other one over-dribbled and struggled to create anything. I am a believer in this backcourt, but tonight definitely wasn't their best outing.
  • The officiating tonight was atrocious. The disparity in free throws (36-20) and fouls called (18-30) should speak for itself. At one point, Kings center Hamadi Ndiaye all but hip-checked Marcus Morris out of bounds as he slid over late trying to cut off the baseline. They called a charge. The Suns lost this game all by themselves through poor offensive play, but they definitely weren't playing on an even playing field.
  • Alex Len and Archie Goodwin still have a long way to go. Len was eaten alive by the Kings' bigs. He looked slow and weak out there trying to defend Cousins and Thompson. Both he and Goodwin have yet to adjust to the speed of the NBA game. Suns fans are going to have to have patience with them.

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The Suns played their worst game of the preseason. They committed 24 turnovers and 30 personal fouls in a 107-90 defeat, but their biggest loss was an injury to starting guard Goran Dragic. Dragic...

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Things to keep an eye on:

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

    Now, who's ready for some Phoenix Suns basketball?

      (3-1) SUNS @ (2-1) Kings

      GAMETIME: 7 p.m. PST, 9 p.m. CST, 10 p.m. EST

      TV: It doesn't look like either team will be televising this one. That means more Al McCoy for everyone (which is never a bad thing).

      Last Time Out...

      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.

      Goran Dragic was the star for the Suns with 20 points on 8-12 shooting while the frontcourt of Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and Channing Frye chipped in 12, 10 and 11 respectively.

      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.

      What about the Kings?

      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.

      Lineups?

      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?

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      This pre-season to date has begun to answer some questions, but it has created so many more questions for the Phoenix Suns this year, and going forward.

      Dave and I covered a lot of bases in this make-up episode of the podcast. The Clippers were in town with former Suns Jared Dudley and Alvin Gentry, Amare Stoudemire left a few years ago, and Kendall Marshall has played fewer pre-season minutes than James Nunnally and Ish Smith.

      Those are all three things that happened.

      Here is the link to the full podcast: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 42

      Who goes on your Mount Rushmore of former Suns that you were bitter, angry, and upset with after they left the team by their own choice or via trade? Are there even four players that come to mind? Mount Rushmore arguments are the best!

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