The Suns put in an excellent defensive effort, limiting the Kings to 35% shooting on their home court. The defensive charge was led by Grant Hill, who made Tyreke Evans a non-factor, holding the 6-6 point guard to 4 points on 1-9 shooting.
Down in the trenches, Phoenix narrowly lost the overall rebounding battle 42-38, but 50% shooting and an excellent bench effort more than made up for it.
This is about as good as the Phoenix Suns can play in the year 2012. The Kings record isn't very good, but they have put together quality efforts against the WC elite winning against the likes of the Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, and Trailblazers. What is also impressive about this victory is the Suns began to pull away from the Kings early, opening up an 11 point 1st quarter lead, and held the lead without Steve Nash in the lineup for the second quarter. Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair put in quality appearances, with Price adding 6 points on 3-3 shooting while Telfair handed out 4 assists. Neither player turned the ball over. This was just one of the things that...WENT RIGHT!
And there were more:
Next up, the Warriors, on Monday in NorCal.
The Sacramento Kings haven't had a winning season since 2005-06, when their team featured Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic and Ron Artest (AKA Metta World Whatever). This year's edition doesn't figure to reach .500 either, but the Kings do have some quality young talent in Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, and have won 4 of their last 5 games, including a 106-101 win over the Thunder on Thursday night. They sit at 10-16 going into tonight's game against the Suns in Sacramento.
Thursday night wasn't as good for the Suns, as they dropped a winnable game to the Rockets and played their starters a lot of minutes in the process due to woeful bench play. If the game against the Rockets was a measuring stick to see how far the Suns can rise, this game could be seen as a measuring stick for how far they can fall. Last season, the Kings beat the Suns in 3 of their 4 meetings despite the fact that, let's be honest here, the Kings had a terrible team.
This year's version of the Kings looks to be slightly improved, as Evans and Cousins gain more experience and they're adjusting to new head coach Keith Smart, promoted from assistant after a 2-5 start and a near-mutiny under former Suns player and coach Paul Westphal.
It's tempting to look at this game on the schedule and think the Suns "should" win, but these are fairly evenly matched teams.
Read on for more........
Is DeMarcus Cousins an emerging franchise big man or a selfish coach killer? The answer to that question is the key to the Kings hopes for the future. The #5 overall pick in the 2010 draft was suspended by former coach Paul Westphal for being, according to Westphal, "unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team; it cannot be ignored indefinitely." Four days later, Westphal was fired, as the Kings decided it was easier to replace a middling head coach than a 21-year old tremendously athletic (almost) 7-footer.
Cousins is a rebounding monster at 11.4 per game, 4.3 of them offensive rebounds. Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye will have their hands full, and Robin Lopez will have to see more action than he did Thursday when he sat out the entire second half. The good news is that the rest of the Kings bigs, Jason Thompson, J.J. Hickson and Chuck Hayes, are nothing special, and they're not an effective rebounding team overall.
On the offensive end for the Kings, Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton figure to carry the load. Thornton isn't shy about hoisting 3-pointers, taking over 6 of them a game. He hit two huge 3s late in their game against the Thunder to help seal the deal. Hey Suns, please do NOT leave him alone in the corner!
For the Suns, the obvious area for improvement is bench play after their train wreck of an effort Thursday. Michael Redd is becoming a solid contributor, a welcome addition to a team in frequent need of an offensive boost. But Sebastian Telfair, Josh Childress, Markieff Morris and Robin Lopez have been far from dependable.
How long before Alvin Gentry goes back to Ronnie Price at backup PG? Or gives Zabian Dowdell a call? Or maybe tries to coax Frank Johnson or Elliot Perry out of retirement? I'm open for any of these possibilities because watching Telfair makes my head hurt.
Channing Frye looks to finally be coming around as he's scored 19, 14 and 21 in the last three games, but his 3-point % is still only at 31%, well below his career average of 39%. If Frye would like to go on a tear right about now, that would give the Suns a huge lift. Some of the team's problems were to be expected, Frye's poor shooting was not.
The Suns are currently #12 in the West, while the Kings are #14. A loss would drop the Suns to #13 so, let's try not to lose, huh?