The Suns played their worst game of the preseason. They committed 24 turnovers and 30 personal fouls in a 107-90 defeat, but their biggest loss was an injury to starting guard . Dragic severly rolled his ankle in the middle of the third quarter on a dribble drive past the Kings’ Jimmer Fredette. He was examined on the court by Head Trainer Aaron Nelson before being carried back to the locker room. He did not return to the game. As of right now, his injury is being called an ankle sprain. We will post an update as soon as we know more.
The Suns began the game with what projected to be their opening day starting five of Dragic,, , , and . The first reserves off the bench were Alex Len for Gortat, for Tucker, and for Goran Dragic. As soon as the starters went to the bench, the Suns early lead evaporated as they finished the first quarter trailing Sacramento by seven points. Though the Suns would keep the score close until the fourth period, they were never really in a position to win this game.
Phoenix’s woes started with DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings big man played up to every dollar of his new contract, finishing with 29 points and nine boards in just 27 minutes of work. Cousins abused every one of the Suns’ big men, shooting nearly 60% from the field and earning 18 trips to the free throw line. Alex Len was by far his favorite victim. The rookie’s defensive ineptitude was highlighted on a play when Cousins spun past him on the block and finished with a reverse jam and the foul. Marcin Gortat was far more effective against the man they call Boogie, but even he was made to look foolish on a few plays.
Phoenix’s second biggest lapse was against Jimmer Fredette. Fredette looked like he was back at BYU in this game. He dominated the ball, showed off his ridiculous range, and wasn’t afraid to penetrate and finish at the rim. He ended the night 5-of-9 from downtown for 23 points while also dishing out five dimes. Fredette wasn’t getting his points by moving without the ball or dazzling the home crowd with crossovers. Most of his threes came off simple pick and rolls which the Suns looked completely lost defending. With so much youth on the roster, defense is going to be a work in progress all season in Phoenix.
Before Dragic went down, he and Bledsoe looked fairly out of sync. So far this preseason when they are on the floor together, it looks as though Bledsoe is playing more of the point guard role with Dragic playing off the ball. But when he played with the reserves, Dragic was definitely running the offense and distributing. Goran is talented and smart enough player to wear two hats throughout the game, but I think he will need more time to get used to this new dual role. As of right now, neither he nor Bledsoe looks settled. They combined for 10 turnovers in this game.
There were a few bright spots for Phoenix however. Dragic and Bledsoe were 8-of-10 on two-point attempts. Though Sacramento is by no means a good defensive team, both guys had open driving lanes and were able to convert when they got into the paint. A big part of the Suns’ offense this season will be predicated on these two being able to penetrate, score, and dish in traffic, so barring Dragic’s injury being major, tonight was definitely a good sign. The other offensive high point was Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer was excellent on the baseline tonight. His jumper was silky and his spin move left DeMarcus Cousins looking dazed more than once. So long as the increased frontcourt depth and ever-present lineup fluctuation don’t get in Gortat’s head, I think it’s safe to say he back to being 2011-12 Marcin in terms of his scoring confidence.
Cousins didn’t play much in the second half. He looked a bit hobbled after former teammate Eric Bledsoe drew a colossal charge on him in the third quarter that left both players sprawling. Bledsoe hopped right up afterwards, looking no worse for the wear, but Cousins, who had 23 of his 29 points in the first half, didn’t look right after that. The two jawed with one another throughout the game.
The only good news for the Suns overall is that their place in the Western Conference cellar seems safe for now. The Kings aren’t great, but with DeMarcus playing the way he did tonight, it would be hard for them not to win 30 games. This year is still a rebuilding year for the Suns, a team with a ton of youth and a brand new coach. There are going to be growing pains all year that look a lot like tonight’s final score. But so long as Coach Hornacek can turn 17-point losses at the Sleep Train Arena into teaching moments, the Suns will continue to improve and make the slow climb back towards contention.
- Miles Plumlee looks far more developed at both ends of the floor than Alex Len. Though Len is a much bigger investment for the Suns, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Plumlee steal minutes from him early in the season.
- Markieff Morris led the Suns in points and rebounds, though his performance did not rise above the din of Phoenix’s struggles in this game. His shot selection looks like it has improved, and he’s playing with the same confidence he did this summer in Las Vegas. His brother Marcus finished the game 0-for-5, and seems to be still searching for his role.