Phoenix Suns 98, Sacramento Kings 84 -- Eliminating Evans

Jared Dudley's double-double helped the Suns knock off the red-hot Kings. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Sacramento Kings came into Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns as one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

Winners of four of their last five with victories over the Thunder, Trail Blazers, Warriors and Hornets, the Kings’ offense was rolling, averaging 99.8 points per game during that stretch — good for fourth in the NBA.

The trio of Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins accounted for 56.0 of those points and the NBA’s youngest team already began talking playoffs.

But it was the Suns who looked like the playoff team on Saturday as they stifled the Kings’ offense en route to a 98-84 victory, their fourth win in five games.

“It was a great win for us,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told “This team (Sacramento) has been playing great basketball for a while now. Keith (Smart) has been doing a great job with these young guys. For us to play from start to finish like that was great for us.”

Phoenix limited Sacramento to 35.1 percent shooting while collecting 11 blocks and eight steals, resulting in 16 Kings turnovers. While Cousins and Thornton ended up getting their numbers with 26 and 21, respectively, Grant Hill took Evans completely out of the game. The 6-foot-6 athletic point guard was a non-factor in Power Balance Pavilion as he shot 1-of-9 from the field for only four points and four turnovers in 30 minutes.

“We were going up against a team that was pretty solid and highly trained to guard,” Smart said. “I thought that Grant Hill did a great job of trying to create space and keep us out of the paint.”

Evans came into Saturday’s game averaging 19.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds in his last five games, but none of that mattered to Hill, who kept the 22-year-old on the perimeter where he’s far less dangerous. Hill doing a number on Evans is nothing new. The 39-year-old put the clamps on Evans last year as well when he limited the Memphis product to 14.0 points and 3.5 turnovers on 35.1 percent shooting.

It wasn’t only Evans who the Suns locked down, however. No player aside from Cousins and Thornton scored more than eight points and the Suns’ defensive rotations were crisp while the interior defense refused to give ground as well — Marcin Gortat finished with four blocks and Markieff Morris racked up three.

The Suns capped those stellar defensive possessions with solid work on the glass. One game after getting outboarded 44-31 by the Rockets, Phoenix held the NBA’s third-best rebounding team to a 42-38 advantage that proved just enough for the Suns to seal the deal.

Phoenix jumped out to a 31-24 lead at the end of the first quarter and didn’t look back from there as the Suns never trailed in the game and led by as much as 17. While it was the defense that clamped down against a high-powered offensive squad, the Suns’ offense more than held up its end of the bargain.

They drilled 50.0 percent of their field goals, scored over 20 points in every quarter for the first time in five games, received 35 points from a bench that was missing in action against Houston, and dished out 27 assists on 39 buckets, 15 of which came from Steve Nash.

Nine different players scored for Phoenix and four finished in double figures, but no one was bigger than Jared Dudley. The crafty swingman was everywhere in 37 minutes of play as he scored 20 points, grabbed 10 boards, drilled three triples, and collected two steals and two blocks, all while shooting 8-of-13 from the field.

Channing Frye also continued his hot streak as he scored eight first-quarter points and eventually finished with 17 on 6-of-12 shooting in only 27 minutes. Frye is now averaging 15.4 points and 5.6 rebounds on 47.0 percent from the field and 40.0 percent form distance in his last five games.

Gortat was rock solid once again with 15 points, seven boards and four blocks in 36 minutes while missing only three shots from the field. The usual suspects contributed and although a lot of it came with the game in hand, Morris went for a career-high 18 points, six boards and three blocks in 26 minutes of play.

From offense to defense to consistency, this was one of the Suns’ best 48-minute performances of the season. The Kings have given the Suns major problems in the past, but thanks to Hill’s perimeter defense, Phoenix’s interior presence, Dudley’s first double-double of the year, Nash’s vision and Frye’s shooting the Suns picked up a much-needed win and are gaining steam as they prepare to round out their road trip in Golden State and Denver next week.

“I definitely think this was a top three performance for us this season,” Gentry said.

And 1

  • Nash received four stitches on his lip after receiving an inadvertent backhand to the face from rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas late in the first quarter. Nash sat the entire second quarter but went on to play 29 minutes and finish in double-digit assists for the firth straight game.
  • Former Suns great and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson sat courtside at the game sporting a neutral purple shirt.
  • Ronnie Price found his way off the pine to play 13 minutes and score six points on 3-of-3 shooting. Prior to Saturday Price hadn’t made a field goal in five games.
  • Hakim Warrick and Shannon Brown remained out of the rotation. Warrick has missed the last five games while Brown hasn’t played in the last four.

  • Scott

    After this game, I can imagine Gentry locking Lopez, Brown, and Warrick on the bench, and just rolling with the rest.

  • marvin holloman

    i love the Suns ans want them to win so badly but they are so hot and cold. without any true superstars besides nash they will have trouble keeping this up but i pray they do!

  • fan in chi-town

    A win against denver the night after running with golden state will be tough but if we can at least get wins against golden state and atlanta (they’ll be on a back to back) then hopefully our team can get just enough rest to BEAT LA on national tv next Friday.

    Altho it would suck if we lost all three of those games before we play LA and then lose to LA as well….which is conceivable. But I’m trying to be optimistic

  • Al

    If I were Brown I would be so mad to be stuck in the bench when he is trying to play for a contract. Gentry should try to give Brown a shot to play at the 1 behind Nash and see how he performs (Telfair and Price are inconsistent). I know that Brown is a ball hog, but the second unit has a real hard time struggling to score as it is. Brown has been able to scored double digits several times at the 2, so I wonder if he would be able to out muscle his defender at the 1 and get to the line.
    Also, Lopez really has to improve his post moves and dribbling. Lopez has always been stripped or committed a turnover the few times I’ve seen him attempt to post a defender.
    Would people mind if Suns traded Childress, Warrick, and 2nd rounder to MIL for Stephen Jackson? I know some of you might argue about the affect on team chemistry, but if Jackson can help improve the teams second (or first) unit am all for it.

  • Zak

    I doubt Milwaukee would go for that trade even if it worked out contract wise unless they were eager to get rid of Jackson.

    Would Jackson be a good fit for the Suns? I doubt it but maybe it would work. And according to the ESPN trade machine, such a trade actually hurts the Suns and tossing in a 2nd round pick would be totally unnecessary to make the trade happen.

  • Al

    I wish the suns could get a steal in a trade like Portland did with the Bobcats last year for Gerald Wallace. I mean seriously Pryzibilla for Wallace is a HUGE STEAL. MJ as a player is #1, but as an owner…meh.

  • Scott

    @Al -

    You probably need to figure out a good trade with the Bobcats. :)

    As for Brown, he’s not eligible for trade till March 1.

    And as for Brown playing PG, that would almost certainly be bad, because one of his shortcomings is poor court vision, while another is poor passing. (That’s why he dribbles the ball so much and plays one-on-one; he can’t figure out what to do on team offense, and he doesn’t want to pass unless it is completely clear because he knows he is turnover prone.)

    Trading for Jackson would be, in my opinion, a bad move, as I believe his better days are well behind him and his attitude and self-control have always been terrible. (Remember, he followed up on inciting the brawl with fans in Indiana with firing a gun into the air at a bar in Oakland.)

    However, if another team wanted Jackson, the Suns could possibly facilitate the trade. The Bucks have no true SG aside from Jackson, and would probably take Childress.

    My preferred trade with the Bucks would be to send them Childress and Telfair in exchange for Udrih. Not that I’m so anxious to get rid of Childress, but the Suns have a surplus of wings and Udrih is a better point guard than Telfair.

    As with Brown, any trade involving Telfair will have to wait till after March 1.

    Mmm … in fact, it also works to trade Brown and Telfair for Udrih, which would be good for Brown if the Bucks were to bite on such a trade. He’d likely get more play time.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    well … with the Kings ….
    I’m happy for Markieff …
    I bet my last … 2 euros on the victory at GS! ;-)
    Go Suns!

  • German_Sun

    I really don’t know where all this will lead us to. As described in some posts before our results are so in between that we on the one hand won’t get a high draft Pick in a talented next draft and on the other hand we barely manage to get in the PO after this season.

  • Scott

    @German_Sun -

    One thing to keep in mind is that – from what I’ve seen – so many of the high picks in this coming lottery are power forwards and centers. While, sure, the Suns could use an uber-talented point forward like Anthony Davis (likely the #1 pick), taking another PF or C at this point is probably not going to greatly change the fortunes of the team.

    So far as I can see, the greatest need for the Suns remains at backup PG. DraftExpress puts the first PG in at #19. So if the Suns draft higher, they’re likely to get a big man to stockpile or trade, and if they pick lower they might get a PG to fulfill a need.

    I think they’ll probably take Cody Zeller, who is a C projected to go at #18, because he’s considered the lesser of two brothers who are in the same draft. Sound familiar? :)

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  • German_Sun

    @Scott: You’re right with the fact that the high picks will mainly be PF’s. Although there might be a bigger need in the PG, depending on the Future of Steve Nash, i think having another PF would give more Trade-Possibilities, e.g. Trading warrick, childress, and frye if necessary to get a strong PG.

    Waiting and drafting a PG with an equivalent talent of a 18th Pick wouldn’t impact the team’s quality significantly, neither as a Nash-BU nor as a starting PG.

    Lol this Time we were lucky with the prospected lesser Twin;-)

  • Scott

    BTW, it occurs to me in re-reading my post that some of what I said – or didn’t say – might be misleading.

    So far as I can tell, at this point there aren’t any really solid PGs in the draft. And I’ve looked all the way out to 100 on the DraftExpress board. Kendall Marshall looks like the only relatively safe pick out of the lot, and unless he outperforms expectations, I’d think he’s either a minor starting PG or a solid backup PG.

    Consequently, I don’t – at this point – hold out much hope for the Suns to answer their PG needs in the draft, as there is really only one guy to pick. Chances of him falling to the Suns are slim.

    As for taking a C or PF, I think the Suns might be inclined to nab another C, to offset the possibility of Lopez leaving. And, ironically, Cody Zeller is the anti-Lopez. He handles, he scores, and he rebounds.

    I don’t see the Suns trading Frye, as Gentry has molded the Suns offense around his (and now Morris’s) outside shooting, and most teams probably can’t use him properly in their systems. Keep in mind that Frye was with the Knicks and Blazers for years before coming to the Suns, and in both places he was considered a washout. He was on his way overseas, most likely, had the Suns not picked him up and figured out how to use him.

    So while my post above seems to say the opposite, I do think it is at this point most likely the Suns will take the big man heavy 2012 draft and pick a PF/C, as it should be easy to get quality even later in the draft, and I agree the Suns will have to find a trade to get themselves a good PG.

    The way I see it, there are 2 things holding the Suns back right now: 1) a quality backup PG, and 2) reliable inside scoring/rebounding for half court offense.

    Ironically, Cody Zeller really IS a likely Suns target. :)

  • Scott

    Oh, one more comment related to the draft … Cleveland has 3 first round picks, IIRC.

    If Varejao has his usual out-for-a-few-weeks ankle injury, the Suns might investigate the option of trading them Lopez for an unconditional first round pick.

    I like Lopez, but if Gentry isn’t going to use him right, then he ought to go to another team. Gentry would probably like the opportunity to go more small ball anyway, with Morris becoming the new bench C and Warrick playing at PF.