The Phoenix Suns got beaten Friday by the Sacramento Kings 121-112, because DeMarcus Cousins and the rest of their team were able to capitalize off of Phoenix’s lack of size.
With Marcin Gortat out with a foot injury, and Jermaine O’Neal tending to his daughter while she undergoes heart surgery, the Suns lacked the size needed to stop the easy shots in the paint that give a struggling team like Sacramento the confidence to come out with a victory.
Phoenix started the game with three new starters, sliding Luis Scola into Gortat’s center position from power forward and promoting Markieff Morris to Scola’s spot as a starter, instead of his usual position as back-up power forward. Also, Markieff’s twin, Marcus, was inserted at small forward for P.J. Tucker and Wesley Johnson was in the shooting guard spot for Jared Dudley. The only position that didn’t change was Goran Dragic at the point guard position.
The whole game was pretty much a shootout with less than championship defense throughout, as the score was 32-30 in the Kings favor after one quarter. It was a dead-heat in the second period with both teams scoring 27 for a 59-57 halftime score. Sacramento’s last ranking in the NBA in terms of opponent’s points per game was evident as the Suns’ 59 at halftime was only 12 less than their 71 points for their entire game Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors.
The game continued on at the same breakneck speed, eclipsing the century mark for a 121-112 final score.
It is bound to be hard to win when the lineups are shuffled so much, because the organization needs to see what the whole roster has to offer before the off-season when they are dealing with who to keep and who to let go.
However, Wesley Johnson showed why he was drafted fourth overall in the 2010 draft and why he started for the Minnesota Timberwolves for the two years before he came to Phoenix. The Syracuse alum scored 19 points and added two steals and a huge block in his first start for the Suns.
Marcus Morris, who also had his first start for the Suns after starting for the Houston Rockets 17 times, played well. He posted 12 points, while his twin, Markieff, added nine points in his latest start. Markieff had started seven games earlier this season and 11 last season for Phoenix.
Goran Dragic had a great game and was 5 steals away from a triple-double with his great 17 point, 15 assists, 5 steal game, which was actually pretty quiet. Scola almost had a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds in his unnatural position playing center due to the lack of presence of the bigs, Gortat and O’Neal. Jared Dudley also added 11 points off the bench.
This was one of those random Michael Beasley games, even though when I was watching I still saw so many mistakes from him. Beasley had 24 points in 28 minutes (efficient?) on 10-24 shooting (nope… not efficient, how did he get up that many shots in so little time?).
On Sacramento’s side of the ball, Cousins was pretty good. In reality he was just very large. With Gortat and O’Neal out, and Hamed Haddadi unfamiliar with the rest of the Suns, because this was his second game for Phoenix, Cousins had his way on offense. The 6’11” 270 center had 22 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. On defense he didn’t have as much luck as he almost fouled out, being called for five fouls.
Additionally, the Kings backcourt stepped up. Tyreke Evans scored 25 points and the feisty 5’9” Isaiah Thomas, who was the last (60th) pick in the 2011 draft, added 27 points, five rebounds, six assists, and five steals.
Marcus Thornton was a catalyst off the bench scoring 23 points in 24 minutes. Jason Thompson also scored 12 points.
The Suns did some things right, but not enough. They pushed the tempo, getting the score above 100 points. However, they didn’t stop DeMarcus Cousins and they didn’t get a jump on Sacramento. The Kings were in the game the whole time and were able to gain confidence to close out the Suns, who also didn’t close off the paint at all, seeing as Sacramento got 56 points in the paint.
Sacramento took advantage of the Suns size disadvantage, but couldn’t defend anything. Phoenix who scored 71 points in a game 48 hours ago were allowed to score 112 Friday.
Cousins was enough of an X-factor to give the Kings the win. In terms of the match-up, Dudley didn’t start and only scored 11 points (which is pretty good for reserves), and Evans totaled 25 points, but his defense must have been porous, because he had a 0 plus/minus for the game, which measure the team’s net points while the player is on the court.
Phoenix now has a quick turnaround with the Houston Rockets awaiting them in the desert Saturday, while Sacramento has a day of rest before they host the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday.