Preview: Sacramento Kings (7-16) at Phoenix Suns (9-15)

Phoenix Suns 101, Sacramento Kings 90





PHOENIX — For the first time this season, the Phoenix Suns learned how to make life easy on themselves. As a trend so far this year, they’d find themselves trailing by double-digits, but in their second win in a row on Friday night, the Suns trailed the Utah Jazz only briefly early on and led 34-22 after the first quarter in the best first-quarter performance of the season.

That allowed them to prove that they could weather runs by a team that came into Phoenix rolling.

“It’s much easier when we have a lead,” point guard Goran Dragic said afterward. “Everybody is more calm, we run the plays. Our execution tonight was real good.”

The real test comes at US Airways Center on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings, when Phoenix can show whether or not it took that lesson to heart. Now 2-0 with the starting lineup of Dragic, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat, players indicated on Friday that the rotations finally could be solidified, and that – and the winning – has helped the locker room drip with confidence.

Dudley said that the previous seven-game losing streak has given Phoenix its sense of urgency back, though wins against Memphis and Utah showed that the Suns used that sense of urgency with a regained execution.

“You lose seven in a row, you’re a little embarrassed,” Dudley said.

The defense has been crisp of late. And on offense, the Suns have emphasized pushing the tempo even off opponents’ buckets.

“We haven’t been pushing the ball as much as we should have,” said head coach Alvin Gentry, who has challenged Dragic to do just that. “I thought (Goran) was great tonight. For the most part he did a good job of attacking the basket.”

Dragic’s control of the game was on point against the Jazz on Friday, most notably in the second half. After the substitution of Michael Beasley at the power forward spot, a Marcin Gortat rebound was passed to Beasley on the left outlet with Dragic standing next to him. That appeared to frustrate the Slovenian point guard, not necessarily in terms of a chemistry standpoint but from that of leadership.

“I have to talk to Gortat about that,” Dragic said afterward, smiling. “I yell, Gortat, Gortat, give me the ball, but he passes to Beasley.”

After speaking with Gentry on a foul shot after the play, the next two possessions saw Dragic attack the rim by dribbling the ball the length of the court. It’s all part of the maturing process for Dragic. His actions afterward set the tone just enough to keep the Jazz out of the game. His command of the offense, and having the ball the his hands during key stretch, is a good sign for the Suns.

Of course, easier done when there’s no pressure to come back from a double-digit deficit. And without that pressure, there’s no forced shots, no hero ball for one player here, another there.

Said Gentry, quite simply: “It’s so much easier when you’re playing downhill rather than uphill.”

Three keys for the Phoenix Suns

Hit them early. Again, the Suns would love to play with the lead, but especially against the Kings, demoralization could go a long way in making the win happen. Sacramento has lost four in a row against Phoenix, four in a row coming into Monday’s game and is 1-9 on the road this year. Simply put, the Suns can use the motivation of striking the one team with a worse record in the Pacific Division early in the contest. The Kings have lost their four games by an average of 17.5 points.

Move the ball. Alvin Gentry preached ball movement during the seven-game losing streak. Recently, the Suns have found that. In the first half of Friday’s game, they had 22 made field goals on 16 assists, something Gentry was proud of afterward. Again, the execution was there, but Phoenix can’t get caught up in any one-on-one back-and-forths with the Kings, who are one of the worst passing teams in the league. That’s especially true for DeMarcus Cousins at center, who has found great success against Phoenix in his short NBA career.

Allow Gortat to get his confidence early. Marcin Gortat found is mojo, so to speak, against the Jazz. Defense was a big part of it, but he pointed out that his focus didn’t waver despite missing some easy buckets. Engaged throughout, Gortat bested Al Jefferson, and how he defends Cousins will go a long way in winning.

  • Scott

    I’d like to see the Suns win this one.

    ESPN has the Suns (#24) slightly ahead of the Kings (#26) on their new power ranking.

  • Harry

    Hopefully win three of a five game win streak (at least).

    Hey Kevin and the rest of you guys at VOS. Any chance you might do an another video with all four of you sometime around the holidays. Suns are looking better and their might be some good stuff to talk about.

    Should Tucker be a starter? Is Tucker an elite defender? What does Beasley have to do be a net positive player? Maybe even the Suns chances for the playoffs if things go as well as I think they might.

  • Kevin Zimmerman


    Definitely will do another video chat soon. Talked about it last week but our fearless leader Mr. Schwartz was out of town the last week-ish. Keep an eye out.

    Obviously a little too early to say the last two games are a major turnaround, but definitely a good sign the Suns haven’t mailed it in. We’ll see how tonight goes, though.

  • Geminid670

    Back-to-back wins has given the Suns some fire and are starting to get a little swagger. I hope they still sting a little from the seven game losing streak and don’t ‘play down’ to the Kings. SAC will be motivated as well, so no letdowns Suns! This one could go to overtime.

  • bill.thomas

    Are We having fun Yet???????? I love it, down in the teens for much of the first half.

    WHAT is wrong here?????????

  • bill.thomas

    Do the Suns participate in a shoot-around?

    You would think from their shooting percentages that they don’t.

  • bill.thomas

    I’m guessing that having 2 or more players who combine low motor (or inconsistent effort) with poor to very poor BB IQ, on the floor at the same time, is our problem regardless of who else is on the floor at the same time. A statistical study should be made of the payer combinations that are working and those that are not.

    With that in mind, things like the controversy over whether Gortat gets enough touches (or whether he is spoon-fed in the correct way), whether he and Scola can co-exist on the floor at the same time, whether Beasley and Dudley should start or come off the bench, who should get the ball in crunch time, and so on, can readily be understood as a secondary soap-opera drama.

    Kudos to all the players who contributed tonight but especially to Scola for his assists and shooting and to Marcin for his blocks.

  • bill.thomas

    What a slow motion catastrophe.

  • Polish_fan

    bla blla bla ……. GOrtattttttttttttttt !!!!!!! well played 2day :-)

  • bill.thomas

    @ Polish_Fan: Yeah you’re right but is that all you care about? It sounds like he neutralized the low BB IQ and sporadic effort of Beasley and Morris.

  • Polish_fan

    I do care about his performance as i’m his fan. Plus I do care about the final result of that team and at the moment its 3W which is also temporary comfortable.
    Btw. Morris and Beasley are neutralized by the coach and Scola. Thats my opinion though.

  • Scott

    It looked to me like in this game the Suns did well enough in the first couple of minutes that they started to slack off. However, playing at a slower pace benefited the Kings and killed the ability of the Suns to defend and make plays.

    This year’s edition of the Suns has to learn what all the previous ones did, which is that you have to play at your normal tempo, regardless of whether the game looks easy or not. If you slow the tempo you risk losing your rhythm, and if you lose rhythm your shooting percentage will drop.

  • Polish_fan

    well said

  • BCrayZ

    Bill, Alvin gets that info & much more.

  • BCrayZ

    Bill, Alvin gets that info & much more.

    Even how many passes are used in each possession & the result in each case.

    More importantly, the info is well understood & used. Mike Dumb Antoni never wanted to be bothered with the facts.

    Mike No D. never won a game in all those years when neither Nash nor STAT was able to play. ZERO. Mike Brown never won a single game without Lebron, when he coached the Cavs. ZERO. Look at the challenges Babby has put in Alvin’s path. Suns are very fortunate to have one of the smartest & hardest working coaches in the game.