You have to give the Suns credit for playing hard. Whether you want to give that credit to new head coach Lindsey Hunter, or to the natural reaction to a shakeup, or to Sacramento being an easy team to beat, I don't care.
The fact is that the Suns hustled. They are not the most talented team in the NBA, but they really tried to execute and finish the plays.
And then Michael Beasley, yes the Beas!, happened. Sporting a new hairdo, Beasley scored 11 points in a critical 20-3 run that helped the Suns take the lead for good. Beasley made shots with abandon, something we have not seen all season. And they were good, high-efficiency shots, for heavens sake. Where has this guy been all season?
And Luis Scola was smiling!! I mean seriously, this is a huge development. Luis Scola has not had much fun this season, but he looked very happy in the 4th during the Suns big run. He was hugging, high-fiving, smiling and getting into Cousins' head.
The Suns had an 11-point lead before Sacramento stemmed the tide but could not cut the lead as the Suns closed out their first 100+ point game of 2013.
The Suns made all the big shots. Scola had 9 points, Beasley 13 in the fourth to carry the Suns to a 30-14 run to finish the game.
The Kings played hard, aggressive defense the first three quarters against the Suns, including constantly double-teaming guys all over the court - under the basket on Suns defensive rebounds, out at the top of the key, under the offensive basket... really, anywhere they could cheat off their man and double-team the ball.
This tactic was more and more effective as the game wore on, despite the Suns working hard all game long to stem the tide. The double teams worked against wings and bigs, but Goran Dragic was in control and more aggressive than he's been in weeks. Dragic had 10 points and 9 assists (against just 1 turnover) through 3 quarters, though his passing was so good it could have been 15 assists by then.
The Kings also dominated the glass through the first three quarters, nearly doubling the Suns effort in that area. DeMarcus Cousins (15, 15 and 5), Jason Thompson (12 and 14) and Thomas Robinson were just longer than the Suns troika of Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola and Markieff Morris.
Yet the Suns hung around, only trailing by 4 points going into the 4th. And then everything changed. The Kings wilted, their defense softened and the Suns with Beasley and Scola grabbed the reins. Even DeMarcus Cousins, who had dominated the first three quarters, just disappeared in the fourth as Scola got into his head and his teammates' poor play dragged him down (rather than him building them up).
The Suns outscored the Kings by 18 points in the second half.
Michael Beasley had 19 and 6, Luis Scola had 21 and 7 with 4 assists and Goran Dragic had 12 points and 11 assists (which could have been 20 with the way he was passing).
As you can tell from the BSotS coverage all week, the Phoenix Suns have managed to get themselves into the news on almost an hourly basis since their last game 6 days ago.
An unusual break in games was filled to the brim with controversy, starting with the ouster of head coach Alvin Gentry, to naming an interim coach (Lindsey Hunter) who had never coached on any level in any capacity before, to mutiny amongst the assistant coaching staff, to rumors of fights amongst players and front office folks, to the new head coach's inability to even run a practice yet, to a reminder of an ongoing FBI investigation against the aforementioned head coach and zero votes of confidence on a national scale for the latest Suns moves.
What could possibly happen today to top the last 6 days of angst? Oh yeah, it's game day!
The new coaching staff, taking over what was already the worst team in the West, takes on the no-longer-worst-in-West Sacramento Kings in a road game tonight that starts the second half of the Suns 2012-13 schedule.
Truly, this is must-see TV.
How will Lindsey Hunter manage the game? Will he remember that it's his job to call timeouts and execute substitutions, or will he turn to new lead assistant Igor Kokoskov or WNBA head coach Corey Gaines for instructions? Who else will be on the bench alongside him?
Will he coach to win, or coach to develop?
Who will play minutes? Will he stay with the veterans on the roster? Or go with more minutes for youngsters and big offseason acquisitions brought in by the front office, including Markieff Morris, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall (Diante Garrett, who is outplaying Marshall on the Bakersfield Jam, is still down in the D-league)?
Of the players who get on the floor, how will they respond to this change? How will they respond to this coach?
Is he an angry, in your face, coach? Or will he be a deer in the headlights?
At the least, he is setting a new tone of working their butts off.
"I know these practices are a lot longer than they are accustomed to," Hunter said after practice on Tuesday. "but we've got a lot to get accomplished. We have to work until we can't forget what we're supposed to do, not until we get it. We have to work until we can't forget it."
"I would definitely describe it as interesting," Dudley said of the change. "I would say shock. We've had a lot of changes these last couple of days. But it just shows what happens when you're not winning games."
It is always darkest before the dawn, and while it may seem pretty darn dark right now we have no idea how much darker it's going to get before the sun rises on that horizon.
This train wreck may just be getting started.
Oh yeah, the Sacramento Kings have their own problems, with the owners agreeing over the weekends to sell their majority share in the team to a Seattle investor. Mayor Kevin Johnson is trying once again to put together a last-second investment group to buy the team but its looking bleak.
Will the Kings play hard, trying to prove something to the NBA? Will fans come in raucous and ready to roll to prove something too?
Must-see TV indeed.
Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013, 8:00 PM MST
Sleep Train Arena
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