The Suns were embarrassed in their first game of 2011.
Up 14 in the fourth quarter in Sacramento, Phoenix squandered its big lead and allowed the conference’s worst team to pull off the comeback, 94-89.
The Suns fell to 14-18 on the season and would go on to lose two more games before turning their ship around.
Flash forward a little over a month later and Phoenix has managed to crawl its way back over the .500 mark.
Most recently, the team defeated the Jazz on Friday night by holding Utah to just 27 points in the second half.
“Mickael Pietrus came in and did a great job on Deron [Williams] and made him work for his shots,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “And we did a good job of rebounding the basketball and then I thought we executed great down the stretch.”
Phoenix displayed a remarkably stingy defense that held the Jazz to 32 percent shooting from the field.
Williams had 19 points, but was just 4-for-11 from the field in the second half.
“I don’t know that technically or mechanically we’re the best defensive team, but when we play aggressive, when we play hard, when we play with passion, I think we can do a good enough job down there,” Robin Lopez said. “And that will fuel our offense, if we get the stops defensively.”
The win put the Suns over the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 7 and just one game back in the loss column of Portland for the eighth seed in the West.
Friday, however, was just the latest in a recent string of high-quality basketball from the rejuvenated Suns.
Since Jan. 12, only the Spurs have a better record than Phoenix’s 11-4.
On the other side are the Kings.
If it weren’t for the historically bad Cavaliers, Sacramento would be the worst team in the NBA.
Nevertheless, the young Kings team gained a lot of confidence from their last meeting with the Suns.
During their fourth quarter rally in January, Sacramento played with sparks and flames.
Rookie DeMarcus Cousins had 13 of his 28 points in the final frame to go along with his eight boards and six assists.
Phoenix will need to be wary of this classic trap game.
The Suns have had issues of late with the bottom duelers of the league (see head-scratching losses to Detroit, Philadelphia and Charlotte).
The team has, however, won 10 straight against Sacramento at home with an average margin of victory over 20 points.
After the Kings, Phoenix heads into All-Star weekend with home games against Utah and Dallas, so Sunday provides an opportunity to guarantee the team at least a .500 record at the break.
Cousins doesn’t make trip
Kings stud rookie DeMarcus Cousins did not make the trip to Phoenix following an altercation with Donte Greene in the locker room Saturday night concerning Greene’s decision to give the ball to Tyreke Evans for a last-second shot in last night’s game against Oklahoma City, according to the Sacramento Bee‘s Jason Jones.
Jones reports that Cousins still could join the team today in the Valley.
According to the report, Cousins and Greene had words for each other and then had to be separated. One source told ESPN’s J.A. Adande that Cousins complained about wanting respect despite being a rookie.
Cousins destroyed the Suns in Sacramento’s 94-89 victory on Jan. 2 by going for a career-high 28 points and eight boards on 11-for-17 shooting, including a dagger of a three-point play with less than two minutes left that tied the game. Cousins was also a plus 26 on that night as the Suns had no answer for him.