Sacramento Kings 94, Phoenix Suns 89 — Lowest of low


DeMarcus Cousins destroyed the Suns down the stretch, but none hurt as much as this game-tying And 1. (AP Photo/Thearon Henderson)

Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat said after last Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that “it can’t get worse.”

The brutally honest statement could be challenged after the Suns (14-18) fell to the NBA-worst Sacramento Kings on Sunday night, 94-89.

What looked like another defensive night for the Suns after one quarter slowly fell apart and collapsed entirely in the final six minutes of the game. After a Grant Hill dunk gave the Suns an 87-75 advantage with 5:50 to play, the Suns’ defense seemed to shut down altogether.

The Kings (7-24) went on a 19-2 run in the final 5:31 of the game to hand the Suns their fifth loss in six games. Kings rookie forward DeMarcus Cousins led Sacramento with a career-best 28 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter.

“It wasn’t really the fourth quarter, it was the last five minutes of the game,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “That’s where the game was decided. We played great up until that point.”

The ice-cold finish was the polar opposite of the Suns’ start to the game. Coming off their best defensive effort in years against the Pistons, the Suns again looked like a new team on defense, allowing the Kings to score just 17 first-quarter points on 23.1 percent shooting.

The Suns went cold in the second quarter, allowing more points (18) in the first six minutes than they had in the first quarter and opening 1-of-10 from the field. The game of hot and cold continued when Suns starters Steve Nash, Mickael Pietrus and Hill returned to the lineup and led a 17-4 Suns run to close the half up 48-39.

Things still seemed OK for the Suns, having allowed an average of 19.5 points in the first two quarters, but the peaks and valleys got worse in the second half. The up-and-down nature of the Suns on both ends of the floor in this game could be part of the adjustment process to new players and the new simplified defense, but it could also highlight a greater issue with consistency.

The Phoenix defense started to slip in the third quarter, allowing 26 points, but maintaining an eight-point advantage after three quarters. The Suns even started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run to go up by 14 before the massive collapse ensued.

A big reason the Kings hung around for so long was their domination of the boards. Sacramento won the rebounding battle 60-32, including 18-9 on offensive rebounds. The game was the Suns’ worst rebounding effort this season, based on rebounding margin.

Nash posted on Twitter earlier in the day that “The Suns need a Dub. Bad.” Nash clearly knew that the Suns couldn’t afford a loss to the cellar-dwelling Kings and he did everything in his power get a win, going a perfect 8-for-8 from the field while notching 20 points and 12 assists. Nash, however, went scoreless in seven fourth-quarter minutes.

“I was looking back and I could have tried to be more aggressive and I feel like maybe I made a mistake,” Nash told Suns.com. “But we had really good looks down the stretch. When we don’t make them you look up and say I could have been more aggressive. We could have easily gone in and won by 10. We missed and now we lose so I’ll kick myself for it.”

Vince Carter added 17 points for the Suns and Gortat, who again got many more minutes than starting center Robin Lopez, contributed 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Gortat’s play may be one positive for the Suns to take back to Phoenix, as the big man seems to be getting more and more comfortable, particularly on the pick-and-roll with Nash.

The other positive, though it feels silly to say after the fourth-quarter bloodbath, was the Suns’ defense— through three and a half quarters. The Suns were contesting shots, forcing turnovers (15 for 14 points) and getting stops. If they can play with that kind of defensive energy for four quarters, they won’t just be beating terrible teams like the Kings but also competing with contenders on a nightly basis.

“They completed plays and we didn’t,” Gentry said. “That was the difference in the game right there. It didn’t have anything to do with attitude or thinking that we had it in the bag or anything like that. They outplayed us the last five minutes.”

It’s clear that the Suns’ focus has shifted to defense. Sunday’s game marked the second straight game the Suns have scored under 100 points (though they probably should have), but on both occasions it wasn’t so much because of the opposing team’s defense as it was the Suns’ increased defensive efforts.

This game came down to the Suns’ inability to finish games, something now-departed Jason Richardson characterized early in the season as a lack of killer instinct. Three quarters of basketball isn’t enough, and the Suns certainly know it won’t be in the coming three-game homestand that brings the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers to US Airways Center.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do to secure the win,” Gentry said. “In the NBA when you don’t do that that’s the end result.”

And1

With Cousins’ 28 points, the Suns have now allowed career-best nights to two of the top five draft picks from the 2010 draft. The Suns allowed No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner to score a career-high 23 points in last Wednesday’s Phoenix loss … The Suns are now 1-10 when failing to score in triple digits. … Gortat was on the floor for 36 minutes while Lopez only saw 12 minutes of action, increasing speculation that Gortat may be headed to the starting lineup.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap Sacramento Kings

  • Jed

    Ugh, sick to my stomach.

  • Mike

    If they are hurting for boards, you gotta go lopez and JD with gortat and pietrus/hill. I don’t understand why he left VC in the game. If you’re gonna win it with defense and boards, don’t put a chucker in.

  • Bostonian Suns Fan

    Facing one of the better rebounding teams in the league, and we start Grant Hill at the 4? Yes, Grant Hill is an above-average rebounder for his position, but that position is not PF. Why trade for Gortat and talk about improved rebounding, only for Gentry to start Hill at the 4? Am I missing something here in the Eastern Time Zone?

  • JEFFREYTANNER

    totaly disgusting.suns fan for years,not coaching or players fault.front office corparate dicks.please trade nash,give a chance.bye

  • Daniel

    I really dont know what to say about that. After Gortat called everyone out, it looked like they had finally woken up. I love the Suns but why is the only consistent thing the mental weakness (and Nash’s excellence)? And what happened to Dragic?! Its like he forgot how to play the point and our team cant win with the bench giving up lead after lead

  • sun also rises

    “totaly disgusting.suns fan for years,not coaching or players fault.front office corparate dicks.please trade nash,give a chance.bye”

    Not to come down harsh, but that’s a statement that only an idiot could make. So Sarver and Babby somehow caused the team to stop playing D in the 4th quarter?

    So far, the Magic players are the only ones actually trying to support Nash since the trade. Stupid comments like these are totally unfounded.

  • Shaqita

    “Great” lineups… outrebunded by 30 rebounds, just WOW.

    Popovich takes time out immediately when he feels the opponent is getting momentum, does not wait for 2 min to get worse!

    They also allowed the player who was killing them to play the whole fourth quarter with five fouls! No one was attacking him or tried to get to the FT line (on that 19-2 run).

    Just too many games foolishly lost!

  • Shaqita

    Suns need B-CIA (basketball central intelligence agency) and ear piece for Gentry, lol. Cos in my view his strong skills are interpersonal, PR, motivating people…

  • Maynard

    We need Gortat and Lopez at the same time on ground. Lopez gives guard to Nash so Gortat can try to rebound balls after missed shot (and vice versa, Gortat gives guard to Nash).

  • jane

    Suns, the confidence booster for the rookies.

    For Griffin(yeah, he already is a monster though), Even Turner, and now Cousins. What a joke this team is.

  • Iceman

    I think the Suns are a big man’s highlight reel for bigger contracts. It may be completely the Suns fault for this pending lockout since EVERY SINGLE BIG MAN IN THE NBA has a career night against the Suns and his agent probably uses that reel to get a bigger contract.

    Here’s an idea. Turn Gortat into the 4, keep Frye and Lopez as 5s. He can’t be any worse as a PnR partner than everyone else we’ve tried.

  • KJ Loyalist

    And I got typed to harshly for my comments about the Detroit game.

    Where was that suddenly-magical defense?

    Why was Hill at the 4?

    None of this matters really. Everybody seems to want to cry and complain, but seriously this team will never have the identity of a defensive juggernaut the way it is constructed / run. All of you guys who are upset at the defense and rebounding are just wishful thinkers at this point and aren’t looking at the team for what it is.

    I don’t understand the constant starting musical chairs though. It’s obvious that it should be:

    Nash
    JMZ
    Hill
    Frye
    Gortat / RoLo, (whoever they’re going to go with).

    For better or worse, that should be the starting rotation at the very least until the new recruits have a full understanding of the system that is in place.

    I don’t mind Gentry looking for a good mix, but he should never do it at the expense of those who have been in Phoenix for awhile, (and know the system inside and out). That part of it makes no sense.

    Of course they fail late in games. There is no built-in trust or comfort zone.

    If VC isn’t going to be used in the PnR game full time, then he should not play until he is fully healed and has a total understanding of the system.

    Childress should get that burn; the new guys need to prove that they have a grasp of things.

  • Kalvo

    Why the hell was grant hill and pietrus playing power forward when in the last two games? I don’t understand gentry’s thinking at all.

  • jane

    I agree with KJ Loyalist.

    “I don’t mind Gentry looking for a good mix, but he should never do it at the expense of those who have been in Phoenix for a while, (and know the system inside and out).”

    The Suns showed it in two games vs. Thnders and Spurs. Those games were just after the trade and new guys didn’t yet join the team. I watched both games and I felt like “wow, this team is even better when short-handed.”. Starting 5 (with Dudley at 2 and Frye at 4) seemed to know what to play and the offensive rhythm and defensive rotation was just good. Those guys played whole last year and went up to the WCF, so they know the system. Gentry shouldn’t change the rotation evey single game.

    I like the idea with starting dudley at 2 or 3 with Hill. Frye has to get his 3 pointer back. His shot has been lukewarm in the earlier season, but now it’s totally cold. Lopez doesn’t look confident at all after Gortat came.

    I know it’s hard for the team to be clicking right after the trade. But losing against Clippers, 76ers, and Kings is…..

    Now it’s Lakers and Amare’s Knicks upcoming. I don’t know what to expect.

  • Ace

    I have nothing else to say about this team. Going to take a month or two off from basketball; unless I hear that Nash and Hill have been traded to a contender before the trade deadline. Last time I stopped watching basketball was 2 months before the end of the 08-09 season and the Suns didn’t make the playoffs. Hope this team improves and is able to get a true power forward before the end of the month. However, I think the games against the Lakers and the Knicks will be the final decision points whether or not Nash and Hill decide to request trades behind close doors.

  • Ward

    Why doesn’t the front office just blow this team up already and rebuild? This is getting just sad to watch…

  • zachi

    i dont see why the suns aren’t going big …
    they have both Lopez (how needs to get more minutes) and Gortat
    they souldnt get out rebounding as that just did…..

  • Daniel

    I dont understand why its asking too much of this or any team, to not have huge mental lapses that result in a total lack of defense. I think any Suns fan is aware that our team will not be a “defensive juggernaut”, they could still actually play defense for 48 minutes. Im aware of the small, swing heavy roster and its still unacceptable. There is no excuse for the lack of effort and its not “bitching and complaining” to point it out! Look at Carter “defending” Casspi when he drilled that 3. Its okay though Vince, Im just overestimating the roster and complaining about something that cant be remedied.

  • Craig

    ONE of the problems with the Suns is Alvin Gentry. In the second quarter, when the Kings were on a roll, he kept the second team (with new enigma Vince Carter) out there for 6 mins and called a timeout but didn’t change the team. They couldn’t score with $10,000 in their back pocket and let the Kings slide up to them. So much for a strong first quarter. Absolute rubbish.

  • Freddy

    I am not sure what to make of this anymore. I want to blame the players as much as the coaching as much as management. I want to blow this team up and rebuild through lottery but at the same time I want to ride it out and hope something clicks and sneaks us into the playoffs. This Team can’t go any lower.. or can they?

  • Jed

    There’s no way they should trade Nash or Hill, and the two of them have made it quite clear that PHX is where they want to be. The fans love them, too.

    I think Carter and Warrick need to go. Perhaps even Pietrus. Though Pietrus is good, I don’t think he brings anything that we can’t get from Dudley/Hiill/Childress. If Pietrus is to stay, then Childress should go (as much as I dislike the idea).

    I wouldn’t mind getting rid of Frye as well, but I can’t imagine many teams that would want his contract.

    For defensive purposes, as well as to build the confidence of Lopez, I would love to see both Gortat and Lopez on the floor simultaneously (sometimes, not always). If nothing else, just get Lopez on the floor some more. Lopez has some sweet inside moves at times, he simply lacks consistency. Both he and Gortat need to work on getting more rebounds, though.

  • KJ Loyalist

    Frye is a victim of the circumstances currently ailing the team.

    He should have his spot at the 4 in the starting rotation, if the starting rotation was what it should be.

    His shot is a bit off because he is out of rhythm. He isn’t catching the ball where he normally does most of the time and when he does, you can see him thinking: “should I shoot this or should I try to make this new lineup work by doing whatever Gentry has instructed?”

    Honestly, the only one of those 3 that came over from Orlando that should have had instant PT was Gortat, (I really like his game in this system already).

    Hill / Pietrus at the 4 doesn’t work. Hill needs to be at the 3 spot and Pietrus needs to be coming off the bench.

    JMZ is this team’s 2 guard. He has earned it. He is hot scorching when he starts. He is a demon when he is in rhythm. That is his position; Vince Carter needs to be 6th man or get out of the way.

  • Steve

    @KJ Loyalist – I’ll settle for “get out of the way,” as far as VC is concerned. That’s our best option.

  • Iceman

    Suns need to start
    Nash
    Dudley
    Hill
    Frye
    Lopez

    Dragic
    Carter
    Warrick/Childress
    Warrick/Pietrus
    Gortat

  • frusteaa

    it was obvious that vince was gonna choke… dont use him at the last 4 minutes of the game if it is a close game…

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