Phoenix Suns 106, Sacramento Kings 96 -- Good thing the season starts today


Lindsey Hunter led the Suns to the first win of his coaching career. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

Lindsey Hunter led the Suns to the first win of his coaching career. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

By my count, the Los Angeles Lakers have restarted their season between three and thirty times already this year. The Suns, on the other hand, have hit the reset button only once. Tonight’s victory, a 106-96 win against the Sacramento Kings, was the first of the Lindsey Hunter era. It was sloppy to say the least, but first dances always are. The Suns, at times, looked awkward on both ends of the floor, but they put in a great effort and got a much deserved win in their penultimate trip to Sacramento.

Before and during the game, first-time head coach Hunter stressed ball movement to his team. It complied with his wishes for the most part but with very mixed results. While the Suns only had 12 turnovers according to the box score, that number doesn’t account for the huge number of bobbles, tips and ricochets there were in this game. The Suns moved the ball too quickly for their own good at times. Though they scored 106 points on nearly 48 percent shooting, the offense looked far from dialed in. Ball movement is and will continue to be crucial for Phoenix’s offensive success, but it didn’t contribute nearly as much in this one as Sacramento’s lazy defense. It’s a great sign for the rest of the year that the team was so committed to moving the ball right off the bat under Hunter. It’s also a great sign that despite a solid offensive night statistically, the Suns still have lots of room for improvement on that end of the floor.

Defensively, the Suns were flying around the court with reckless abandon. Phoenix looked energized. The Suns weren’t always in the right position, but their effort on the defensive end was greater than any game I can recall from the first half of the year. On the positive side, the Suns’ outstanding effort led to 27 points off 25 turnovers. On the negative side, the Suns’ poor positioning led to 18 offensive rebounds and 58 points in the paint for Sacramento.

The Suns were totally lost on the boards, getting outrebounded 49-30. The Kings’ bigs – DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson – were too much for Phoenix’s frontline. The duo pulled down 29 boards combined. The Suns’ rebounders were pushed under the basket far too often, allowing Sacramento to grab rebounds in the middle of the key. Even more unforgivable, Phoenix gave up 20 fastbreak points. Standard basketball logic would posit that if a team is getting killed on the boards, it’s because players are running back on defense instead of crashing the boards. That wasn’t the case at all in tonight’s game. The Suns’ guards were caught in no man’s land – not close enough to the hoop to rebound but not deep enough to stop the ball in transition. Phoenix gave up way too many easy buckets. Had the Kings not missed nine of their 24 free throws, this result may have gone their way.

The King’s success shouldn’t over shadow Phoenix’s defensive effort though. The Suns completely stifled Sacramento in the fourth, closing out the game on a 30-14 run. In the final period, the Kings turned the ball over eight times, and star forward DeMarcus Cousins was completely shut out. Overall, Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola did a commendable job defending Cousins. Even though he ended the night with a double-double, DeMarcus missed 11 of his 18 shots, turned the ball over six times and didn’t get to the free throw line once. In the fourth, Boogie was visibly frustrated and about a hair’s breadth away from getting a technical foul.

Offensively, Scola was the key to the game for Phoenix despite only playing 29 minutes because of foul trouble. Luis scored a game-high 21 points including nine in the fourth quarter as the Suns took control of the game. Scola also dished out four assists, a few coming on plays similar to those we broke down in a piece earlier today. If he continues to perform like this, Scola will become the de facto centerpiece of Phoenix’s offense.

Michael Beasley was also outstanding tonight. Beas scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. He was efficient, hitting eight of his 15 shots and connecting on his lone three-point attempt. Other than that lone trey, all of Michael’s makes came from inside the paint, a fact that bodes well for both him and the team moving forward.

Goran Dragic posted a double-double (12 points and 11 assists) for the first time in nearly a month.

Hunter and the front office have both expressed a desire to get the Suns’ younger players more minutes in the second half of the season. That wasn’t really the case in this game. Kendall Marshall saw no time at all as Sebastian Telfair retained his role as backup point guard. Wesley Johnson got eight minutes, and Luke Zeller got a surprise two minutes. Zeller likely got off the bench because Jermaine O’Neal didn’t travel with the team to Sacramento for an undisclosed reason.

The Suns didn’t miss O’Neal much though. Markieff Morris gave them a very solid contribution in 25 minutes. Down the stretch, Phoenix went with a frontcourt of Morris, Beasley and Scola, which more than held its own against the powerful frontline of Sacramento.

The lineup and the allocation of minutes will probably fluctuate from game to game. I expect that Hunter went with veterans tonight to help build the team’s confidence by getting a win against a favorable opponent. As the schedule gets tougher, like tomorrow night at home to the Clippers, the younger guys may see more minutes.

In the mean time, the Suns are 1-0 after their respawn and quietly have won two road games in a row.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap Sacramento Kings

  • john

    @SHAZAM

    I hear you, and I’m not putting you in that camp of unreasonable haters. I’m in the lose now, win later bandwagon as well (I wish they would have got the train moving along as soon as they decided they weren’t going to pay Amar’e, but that’s a different story). I’m more referring to the haters that would swear on their lives that no one in this FO is able to feed, bathe, or clothe themselves. I don’t like this FO either. I wish Sarver would have hired experienced, proven people to be GM and/or PBO, but he didn’t. As fans, we have been dealt a tough hand, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to blast my team, boycott the games, and pout and whine all day about the team I root for not being great. Some of the reactions I read from “fans” honestly makes me question the stability of their minds (from a psychotic standpoint). A little hyperbole is fine every now and then, but some people act as if Sarver killed Jesus, was the father of Osama bin Laden, and is simultaneously plotting a nuclear apocalypse and the rise of Justin Bieber to the status of World Potentate. I’ve even heard people blame Sarver for Twilight. That’s just taking things too far.

  • SHAZAM

    sarver has made a lot of bad decisions the real-estate collapse made him pinch some pennies…but over all he does spend more than a lot (except this year)…as an aside the franchise is worth 13 percent more than it was last year..totally agree that when amare left it was time to rebuild instead of turnstile con…and thats the saddest part..a 3 year rebuild will be 5

  • Scott

    @SHAZAM -

    While I know teams that get the GREAT high draft pick do well, I’m not that invested in the idea the Suns need to play poorly to get that pick and win.

    Right now the Suns have a #2 and a #4 pick on the team. They could have had Mayo, who was a #3.

    All of the top talent guys on the Suns right now were 2nd round picks: Dragic, Scola, Gortat.

    There are good young players out there that teams can often get; it’s just that the Suns haven’t been getting them.

    And as far as the last high draft pick the Suns had, well, that would have been Iguodala, but Colangelo made a pre-draft deal based on bad logic and bad scouting.

    Also, as you know, Kobe was a 13th pick, and Nash was a 15th pick. A #1 pick gets you a Duncan or a LeBron, but only when they’re available. Then the task is to hold onto them and win with them, and in the above examples, San Antonio held on and won while Cleveland couldn’t win enough and they lost their guy.

    So to sum it up, there’s talent out there and the Suns losing a lot of game doesn’t put them in a position to win. What puts the Suns in a position to win is picking the right players at every opportunity, including out of free agency and in trades and in the 2nd round of the draft.

  • Harry

    John,

    Absolutely agree with your point about the so called “fans”. Can’t bitch enough and they’re overjoyed when the team fails. Like you, I disagree with some things, but every Suns board is this way. Actually, this board is better than most. I’m cheering for wins every game as I don’t think losing builds a winning culture long-term.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Go Suns ! Go Beas!

  • Harry

    Does anyone think the Suns are looking at Pau Gasol? Does anyone think the Suns should be looking at Pau Gasol? I do, just not sure how they would get him.

  • IowaPhXfan

    TRADE:

    Sacramento gets: Dudley & Morris

    Phoenix gets: Robinson & Fredette

    Contract-wise it is almost a complete wash, ~$6M/yr for either duo of players, and same length of contracts.

    To me it’s a win-win, Sac gets some badly needed veteran leadership in Dudley along with a big in Morris who can stretch the defense, which they also need desperately to help give Cousins more room to work.

    Phx gets Robinson who I think has a very bright future (no pun intended). He rebounds like crazy and is the perfect PF glue guy every championship team needs. Fredette is someone we can play immediately and could be a great energy/scoring guy off the bench on a very good team, ala jason terry, jj barea, crawford, martin, etc.

    Thoughts? Who says no? (Maybe Sac loves Robinson and values him a lot more than I think….)

  • SHAZAM

    scott the 1-5 draft picks are harder for fo to screw up…its like training puppies w/ the suns..you try to put them in a position for there to be less chance at failure…you have to show them the stick before you throw it.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Why can’t Beasley play like this game and the Chicago game (the one in Chicago) every single game? Also, Dragic may have had a double double, but his decisions were questionable for the most part. He shouldn’t be shooting right now because he can’t make a shot from outside ten feet it seems. He should be driving and dishing or PNR with Gortat. I don’t know what happened with Dragic’s shot, but I don’t trust him anymore when he shoots the ball.

    Also, I will go on the record as saying I enjoy bill.thomas’s postings as I think they are pretty funny, and about the only time I smile when I read something about the Suns these days. However, if they really are a byproduct of excessive drinking, then I must say that it seems like he does drink a little too much, too often. But I do find his posts funny.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Iowafan – I like that trade. I like ‘Kieff, but I also liked what I saw from Robinson last night. We could use jimmer like we use dudley, and I think it would improve his shooting percentage.

    Harry – I would like pau as well, but not sure how we could get him.

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  • Forever is2long

    No matter the circumstance, whenever we get a Suns win and a Lakers loss on the same night, I sleep very well. I said last week both present and former Suns approximately 25 and under played better when Gentry was not their coach (Dragic, Lopez, Beasley, Clark, W. Johnson) so I understood the coaching change. I won’t judge any possible improved play for 5 games when the new regime has settled in.

    I am glad coach did not go overboard and play Marshall last night for the sake of just giving minutes to the youth movement. Look I think he is a bad player but absolutely he should get minutes when it will likely not compromise the outcome.

  • Scott

    @Fan in Chi Town -

    I think Dragic’s shot disappears when he’s out of rhythm, and that’s usually because there’s been a change to system, players on the court, or the players who are on the court aren’t in their spots.

    From this sort of thing I kinda gather that the Slovenian basketball program is probably highly ordered, and to some degree improvising just isn’t a big part of his background.

  • Forever is2long

    For the Marshall fans, please note that point guard Wroten taken later in the 1st round than Marshall had 9 points, 5 boards , 2 assists and a blocked shot against the Lakers last night. There were a few fans before the draft who thought Wroten and probably the former Univ of Kansas point guard were both better than Marshall (Mr. Eye for Talent Blanks would not listen).

  • Harry

    LOL as sample size Forever. Wroten has played a grand total of 53 minutes this year. You also forgot to mention it took him 13 shots to get 9 points. I watched a lot of that game last night. The guys a good athlete. Not sure there is a whole lot more. Perhaps, perhaps not.

  • Scott

    @Harry -

    No, I don’t think Pau is a good choice for the Suns. I wonder why you think he would be …?

    While Pau plays mostly on the ground like Scola, like Scola he’s 32 and he plays heavy minutes every summer with his home team. He’s got playoff miles too, and my impression is that all the play has been affecting his knees.

    Pau has a PER of 15.55 this year, has a salary of $19 million, and 2 years on his contract (I don’t know if the final year is guaranteed or not, but I’d guess it is). Scola is costing the Suns $4 million and he has a PER this year of 17.26. All you get from Pau over Scola is 2 more rebounds and a block per game.

    So … what would be the point of getting Pau?

    If you compare Pau to Gay, I’d go for Gay, in that he’s 26 years old and thus closer to the age group for a rebuilding team. His PER is only 14.38, but he’s scoring 4 pts more than Scola and brings in the same number of rebounds. He’s also an outside threat, and he can play either wing position. He’s got length as well as height. He’s got 3 years remaining, with this year at $16.5 million.

    Now I’m not advocating the Suns sign Gay. I think they’d have to move Gortat first, in exchange for good young talent on rookie contracts. If they do that, then I think it makes sense to trade for Gay.

    For example, as I’ve mentioned before, I’d try to trade Gortat, Morris, and Telfair for Vucevic, Nicholson, Harkless, and Harrington; thereby gaining some young talent on small contracts (and take back one vet). Trading players (not picks) for Gay would give the Suns solid youth at the 5, 4, 3, and 2 spots, in addition to what they presently have.

    So that’s the context in which I’d take on another big contract. I’m not sure how Pau would fit in, because if it’s for trade I’m not aware of any team that needs Pau to compete for a championship (or has the salary room to take him). So he’d basically be a veteran player on a soon-to-be expiring contract for the Suns, and I don’t know why the Suns would need that.

  • john

    Still nothing from the haters… Interesting. Man, I hope the Suns start winning again soon so those people can be silenced for good. It’s a lot more peaceful on Planet Orange when people aren’t calling for heads to roll all the time.

  • Abe

    @Lon Babby
    hahaha, Hilarious!

    We need to play our young talent, and focus on LOSING! our playoff chances are over, we need HIGH DRAFT PICKS.

  • Scott

    @Foreveris2long -

    While I think Wroten is an interesting possibility, because he does have talent, he appears to be a low IQ guy. If the Suns did trade for Gay (as outlined above) it would be okay with me to take Wroten as part of the deal, but IMO it would be to use him as a backup combo guard.

    For the Suns’ purposes, getting a high IQ floor general type PG is ideal. Marshall fits some of the billing on that, but he needs to become more athletic and develop a shot, which he is theoretically working on.

    Since Hunter’s main effort with the Suns prior to becoming head coach was to mentor Marshall, a different GM might have looked at Marshall’s progress as a way of measuring Hunter’s abilities.

  • Kendall Marsall

    i deserve playing time

  • Harry

    Scott,

    Happy to give my reasons for thinking about seriously considering Pau. To start, I don’t think there is any sure fire way to build a team. Most think the only was is to get high draft picks. It obviously has it’s part in building but it’s no guarantee and examples exist advocating for other ways. To me, what really matters is good management. Good management gets good coaching and acquires good players generally. Bad management does the opposite. We all know the examples for both.

    So why Pau? Quite simply, because he’s an excellent basketball player, probably still top 20 in the world. PER is an OK metric to give a larger picture but you’re looking at just one year and you’re failing to consider the fact that he is odd man out in LA. This is largely why his stats have been hurt. In addition he has some nagging injuries going on now.

    If one wants to see how truly good Pau is watch the gold medal game from the Olympics. One of the three best players on the court. No question. He was awesome. The other two were Durant and James.

    Now I wouldn’t advocate getting Pau if this team was actually as bad as everyone believes. But I”ve said before, I think Dragic and Gortat are potential borderline All-Stars. Combine those two with Gasol and that’s a line-up that is almost certainly a play-off team. Maybe you have to give up Gortat (using a third team as I don’t see LA wanting him) but you still end up with a line-up of Gasol, Scola, Dragic and Duds. I’d happily move forward with that team. Or if you lose Duds (someone the Lakers should want) you keep Gortat. Under either of these teams you could still go for someone like Reddick and keep a lot of the teams picks. A core capable of winning and have picks to develop.

    Everyone loves the romance of a youthful team. That is until they lose, which they do a lot. And they can do it for years. I don’t wish to go there. There’s no need. The Suns have good mid level, mid age talent that combined with a talent like Gasol makes them considerably better. Sort of like the Celtics adding Garnett. Sure, it won’t be a long-term solution but if they have success I could see him staying to get the benefit of the Suns training staff.

  • azbballfan

    John apparently did not see my post in the sea of bill.thomas posts 8)

    Any ftont office that throws away established people in favor of their buddies with no experience should be hated.

    Sarver inherited a great team in 2004 and promptly blew it to peices and then went on the radio when fans are outraged at the conduct of the front office with this coaching search, and goes “oh i wouldnt agree that fans are angry”

    If i they had to make a coaching change, fine, but the way they did it was total bullshit

    Hunter better be an amazing coach because alot of fans, people that cover the media, and former coaches hate babby and blanks and Hunter

    Just listen to what dan majerle said on doug and wolf

    these poeple are dispicable and wont get anywhere in the long run

  • Harry

    asbballfan. This owner that ypu think that has ruined this franchise has directed a team that has won 61.4% of their games and has made it to the WCF 3 times. In the eight years prior to his ownership, the team won only 53.8% of their games and only once got past the first round of the playoffs.

    If anything, he’s been one of the more successful owner in sports during that time. You, like basically every other Suns fan currently, are confused as to what’s actually happening. Just because you don’t like the current direction (and I agree a bit) doesn’t mean Sarver has been awful. Quite the opposite. He’s actually been amazing by most standards.

  • Forever is2long

    Scott,
    IMO Wroten has a much higher ceiling than Marshall so I would trade Wroten for Marshall in a heartbeat but my dollar says Memphis would laugh us out of the State of Arizona. Putting that aside though, my point is Marshall never should have been a lottery pick.

  • Alvin Gentry

    Good win Lindsey but that was the Kings. Good luck tonight against the Clippers mkaaay?

  • Scott

    @azbballfan -

    If you’re referring to Hunter and Blanks being buddies, I believe what Sarver said is that they didn’t know each other prior to Hunter joining the Suns.

    Also, Sarver didn’t know Blanks till he was hired (though Kerr and Blanks were friends).

    I don’t think the problem for the Suns is Sarver or favoritism so much as it is the somewhat low competency of the people under Sarver. Of course, Sarver is responsible for picking those people, but if he’d actually get lucky and pick someone competent for GM, then it seems the story of the Suns would get a lot brighter.

    Sarver believes Blanks is a savant. I’m thinking more like “idiot savant” with an emphasis on the former, but I don’t want to be mean, and in all fairness, Blanks is right about some things.

    1) Dragic probably IS a better person than he is a basketball player. However, Dragic IS a better player than Brooks, and Dragic + MarShon Brooks is better than Aaron Brooks..

    2) Beasley does have a lot of untapped potential. However, maybe nobody can tap it. I think at least four NBA coaches have tried so far, and now Beasley is on his 2nd coach with the Suns. As GM, I would have rather confirmed I could tap Beasley’s inner beast before casting him as the star of a team.

    3) The Suns need to do a better job in trades and free agency, plugging the roster holes that way and using draft picks purely for acquiring star talent. Morris is destined to be a role player, not a star, and that was evident at the draft. Marshall, in terms of potential, was probably a better pick than Morris, in that if Marshall ever gets good, he could get REAL good. But he’s definitely a project.

    So, while some might disagree with the exact pick, and while it looks like he was drafting to fill a roster spot, Blanks at least went for talent and potential in the last draft.

    4) Blanks has filled the roster with disposable players, which at least acknowledges that the Suns will be taking picks the next few years. He could have done worse, committing the Suns to contracts and creating a logjam in the roster.

  • Michael

    Just want to emphasize the 4th point.
    This is the best that is already been done in terms of rebuilding. We have a very favorable contracts/salary structure, that gives us a lot of flexibility to absorb bad contracts from other teams (in return for picks/ talent) or even to fly high in trade talks/ on the free agency market.

    With all the things going wrong the last couple of seasons, this must be considered great work when looking at where we came from (Hedo, Childress, Warrick, …).

  • Ty-Sun

    While I don’t think it would be good for the Suns to try to trade for Pau, I won’t argue that he’s still an excellent player. I also think that for him to be most effective he needs to play at the 5 instead of the 4. If he were to come to Phoenix, I think he and Scola would make an excellent front court duo even if both are in their 30′s. Pairing Pau with Gortat just doesn’t seem like a great idea to me because I think Pau is better at the 5 than Gortat and he certain makes a better 4 that Gortat could be.

    The Suns are running a lot of the offense through Scola at the high post now but if you exchanged Pau for Gortat then they would be able to do the same thing using either Pau or Scola at the HP which could be a big advantage depending on the match-ups in any particular game.

    Anyway, I’m not advocating trying to get Pau (it’s probably not possible anyway) but it’s NOT because I doubt his talent.

  • Scott

    @Foreveris2long -

    I’d say Wroten has more to offer right now than Marshall does, and both players could develop. However, I’d say Marshall has a higher ceiling, in the sense that his ability could make a whole team better, while if Wroten does his job well he will mainly just be a good 2 guard.

    OTOH, both could be busts. ;)

  • Scott

    I do agree that the combo of Pau and Scola would be interesting.

    I just have a hard time putting together a scenario where Pau joins the Suns, and presumably gets re-signed at effectively $20 million.

  • Ty-Sun

    I think that even Pau would admit that he’s going to have to take a pay cut when his current contract runs out, no matter where he’s playing. But a change to a team where he’s playing the 5 instead of the 4 would probably get him a smaller pay cut in his next contract.

    But as I’ve said before, any trades the Suns make before the trade deadline this season should only be for younger players with future potential, draft picks and/or expiring contracts. But even after saying that, I think that after July 1 that the Suns shouldn’t be in a big hurry to get rid of Scola if he wants to stay in Phoenix. If the right trade comes along, sure, but I think he has the potential to be a great mentor/teacher to younger 4s/5s. Just imagine Gortat or even Morris with all of Scola’s crafty moves.

  • Forever is2long

    Scott, We will respectfully agree to disagree but I don’t know what potential you see in Marshall. Marshall has terrible lateral foot quickness, terrible speed, cannot defend and cannot shoot, other than that I guess he is ok. So while he can pass, shooting 31% in the D League does not give me reason for optimism. If you cannot shoot in the NBA and you are not quick enough to penetrate, defenders will just let you shoot and simply play the passing lanes. It makes life really difficult on your team.

  • Harry

    Pau may very well be better at the 5 than the 4. That would be fine. Moving Gortat would allow the Suns to go after additional help on the wing. But going after players of this caliber, at least to me, is essential if you want to compete as a playoff team. Darrell Morey agrees as well as he has been trying to get Gasol for a number of years. And while it may be possible that the Suns don’t have the pieces to get him, they’re not without some assets. They have a lot of picks to offer at a minimum. I hope the Suns at least consider him. He destroyed Love in the Olympics and everyone raves about him.

  • azbballfan

    Sarver was handed a great team with Nash, Marion, and Stoudemire in 2004 and then shredded the team

    Hunter and Blanks i believe were former team mates at the pistons ogranization.

    All the pieces, including staff and players were there before Sarver ever showed up

    a owner that says fans are not upset is out of touch

    your own former coaches are pissed

    they said so them selves

  • Dennis Marshall

    Hey Phoenix fans,

    just wanted to share some news, I have told Kendall to request a trade from this no-hope organization that for whatever reason isn’t giving my son the playing time he needs and a chacne to succeed.

    So there, expect my son to find his way somewhere else by the trade deadline.

    have a good day,

    dennis

  • Scott

    @azbballfan -

    Sarver said Hunter and Blanks were never at Detroit at the same time.

  • john

    They weren’t. Blanks was gone by the time hunter made it to the NBA. That’s how old blanks is. :)

  • john

    Also, that goes to show how clueless and baseless the haters are. I have heard that claim (that Blanks and Hunter are old buddies from playing ball at detroit together) at least a dozen times over the past few days from my outraged Suns fan friends, and every single time I tell them the truth, they simply shrug it off and say, “Well, there’s still something messed up about it.”

    People don’t need a reason for believing something, I guess. If they want to be mad, they’ll make up a reason. When that reason is exposed, they’ll make up another.

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