Sacramento Kings 107, Phoenix Suns 104 — Another late lead squandered


The Suns are the only team in the NBA to hold a lead in the fourth quarter of every game they’ve played this year. But Phoenix, playing without their closer Eric Bledsoe, failed to hold the lead once again, succumbing to the Sacramento Kings 107-104 in a very frenetic game. Bledsoe, who is suffering from a bruised shin, was a late scratch from the lineup. In his absence, the Suns got valiant performances from fill-in starter Gerald Green, as well Marcus Morris and Archie Goodwin off the bench. Green had a season-high 23 points and went 4-of-8 from downtown. Marcus’ jump shot was clicking as he dropped in 19 points. And Goodwin had a breakout performance which will surely garner him more playing time. He had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and was a force in transition.

But for the all the contributions the Suns got from unlikely sources, they had no answer on defense for DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie looked nearly unstoppable in this game, ending the night with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Both Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye were abused all night long by the Kings’ franchise big man. Had he not knicked up his shoulder in the second quarter, Cousins might have had 40 in this one. He was a bit slower in the second half.

The Kings were also led by backup point guard Isaiah Thomas, who leads the NBA in bench scoring. Thomas was a force on both ends, scoring 19 points thanks primarily to his blazing speed and forcing several turnovers on defense.

This was a game of runs, like every other Suns game this year. After a 9-2 run, the Suns led 104-97 with three minutes to play. They didn’t score another point. Isaiah Thomas hounded Dragic defensively and forced him into turnovers on two different possessions with less than a minute to go. Jeff Hornacek brought in Ish Smith to help alleviate the Thomas pressure, but Isaiah picked his pocket for another Suns turnover. Even with all their miscues, the Suns still had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, but Marcus Morris’ corner three came up short.

Don’t let Bledsoe’s absence fool you, the Suns have no halfcourt offense whatsoever. This has been evident for several games. The only points they generate when they’re not fast breaking are on 1-on-1 drives by Bledsoe or Dragic or threes off of ball rotation. That’s why this Phoenix team struggles to score in the clutch when the game slows down and there’s nowhere to run.

In addition, the Suns cannot guard physically dominant big men like Cousins. Plumlee is tough and Frye is a crafty veteran, but neither of them could keep Boogie out of the paint. When they did try to double-team Cousins, Phoenix’s guards did not rotate to the basket. This allowed Sacramento to find their other big for an easy bucket time after time. These two shortcomings are what will ultimately limit the Suns’ win total this year. They have the talent to win games, but as of yet, they have no way to close them.

For more analysis, let’s answer Kevin Zimmerman’s preview questions.

Will Ben McLemore make Suns fans complain about Alex Len?

The short answer is yes. Looking at the box score, McLemore had 19 points and Len had zero in just five minutes of play. But a simple “yes” doesn’t fully answer the question. Believe me, there were times when McLemore was on the court and Len was on the bench that Len looked like the better player. McLemore, the seventh pick in the 2013 NBA draft, hit four of his ten attempts from downtown. The four that went in hit nothing but net. The six that missed weren’t even close. He airballed back-to-back attempts in the second quarter. McLemore is the player we thought he would be: streaky, athletic, and very raw. Sometimes he looks great and other times he looks D-League bound. He’s got a long way to go as a pro, but he’s certainly off to a better start than Len.

That said, Suns’ fans shouldn’t complain too much because their own rookie Archie Goodwin totally outshined McLemore when they were on the court together. Goodwin brought the hostile crowd to its feet with steals and breakaway dunks on consecutive possessions in the second quarter. Offensively, he looked silky. He got to the rim at will and was a huge reason the Suns were able to turn an 8-point first quarter deficit into a 13-point lead midway through the second quarter. He hit 7-of-10 from the field and played stellar defense on McLemore, totally taking him out of the game.

As for Len, it’s good news that he was able to return from injury this early, but he is still totally lost mentally on the court. And the rookie needs to put on some serious weight if he’s going to bang in the paint.

Does Eric Bledsoe look more comfortable alongside a healthy Goran Dragic?

Bledsoe’s bruised shin kept him out of this game, and there’s no word yet if he’ll be ready to play when the Suns and Kings run it back Wednesday night in Phoenix. So instead, let’s discuss Dragic. Goran came out very aggressive, penetrating into the paint every chance he could. He was perhaps a bit to aggressive, however, as he turned the ball over seven times. He ended the night with a slightly disappointing 10 points and eight assists. This was a game where the Suns were really depending on him for offensive leadership and Dragic didn’t quite deliver. It looks as though he is still working his way back into form. He looked very tentative on both ends of the floor against the smaller yet feisty Isaiah Thomas. Normally, Goran plays with a quiet yet fierce confidence. Tonight, that aura was replaced with pained looks and frustration. When the Suns put the ball in his hands with a chance to tie late, Dragic went to his patented late game move: penetrating to the right block and showing the ball to the defender before reverse pivoting and putting up a short jumper. It’s the move he beat the Grizzlies with last season. But tonight, he put up an awkward attempt that went high off the glass and never really had a chance. He’s not quite himself right now. The question of how well he and Bledsoe can play together is still unanswered, and it will remain that way until they’re both 100% on the court together.

How do the power forwards play?

Markieff Morris had a game he’d soon like to forget. Because of foul trouble, he was limited to just 11 minutes and three points. When he was on the court, he looked out of sorts and exhausted. The epitome of his night was fouling McLemore on a three point attempt as time was winding down in the third quarter. After McLemore hit all three free throws, Phoenix’s lead was cut to six heading into the final frame. After his premier run of play two weeks ago, Kieff has come crashing back to Earth hard. Because of his issues tonight, Coach Hornacek decided to go small for a lot of this game, playing Channing Frye at center with Marcus Morris at the power forward spot. It was with that lineup that the Suns ran the Kings to death in the second quarter and helped Phoenix take a double-digit lead. It was a brilliant move by the first year coach, but it was not without its own problems. The small ball approach put Phoenix at a huge disadvantage on the glass. The Kings ultimately outrebounded the Suns 48-31 overall and 15-6 on the offensive glass. That rebounding paid dividends for the Kings in the clutch when the Suns were dog tired on the defensive end.

Like it or not, Kieff is a lynch pin for this team. Frye can knock down shots from outside (3-of-6 tonight) and rebound (led the team with 9), but Kieff is the physical presence in the paint the Suns need to be competitive. I’m not sure if his current poor form is a fluke or the norm. Whatever is going on, it’s both mental and physical and needs a remedy ASAP. Kieff and the Suns will get a shot at redemption tomorrow night.

And 1

  1. Miles Plumlee’s free throw shooting is getting worse (0-of-5 on the night.) He’s clearly psyched himself out. He’s visibly overthinking and short arming his shots from the charity stripe. The coaching staff needs to get him some confidence ASAP before it starts affecting his aggressiveness in the paint. No one wants one of the real bright spots in the Suns’ season to turn into Andris Biedrins.
  2. The Suns attempted 22 free throws in the first half and 28 overall. If not for those trips to the line, the Suns would have lost by double-digits. It was nice to see the Suns penetrating so much in Bledsoe’s absence.
  3. The Suns have not allowed an opponent to shoot 50% from the field this season. Combine that fact with Phoenix having held a lead in every fourth quarter this year, and the Suns should certainly be better than 5-5.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap Sacramento Kings

  • SHAZAM

    best wrap up out there ryan…job well done

  • JK

    Absolutely horrible game to watch. How in the hell can you let the Kings go on a 10-0 run at the end of the game to seal the win?! Dragic’s pass that ended up in Cousins’ hands on one of the final possessions was horrid. I love the guy, but he isn’t the future of our team. I’m completely in favor of trading him for future assets because I believe that Bledsoe still has plenty of room to grow considering that he is only 23 years old.

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    Damn I wish I coulda seen this one. I’m a huge Archie fan and had hoped to see his first real breakout game. (Mini breakout at least…) How was he?

  • Joseph d

    Archie looked like a scrawny d wade out there to me. He was doing very well. He has an ugly jumper but that can be fixed.

  • Scott

    Goodwin was my #1 out of last year’s draft. I’m glad he’s getting some court time and doing well. :)

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ Dave:f32….from previous article

    While Marcus Smart almost got 40 last night….Jahii Carson of Arizona St. actually did get 40 including 26 in the 2nd half in the Sun Devils come from behind victory over UNLV up in Vegas.

    These are clearly the 2 best PG’s in America.

  • Azbballfan

    Who cares that we lost another close game, thats going to happen to a young team

    Goodwin is proving he needs to play consistent minutes

    Green and Marcus Morris had excellent games

    It was nice to see Len back, although you cant really do much in 5 minutes

    but of course, the teams future isnt about this season its about 2 years from now

    when this team has more talent and free agent money to go with solid draft picks

    we are on our back up, after what seems like forever being mediocre

    another close loss, thats ok

    by the way, Cousins get away with ALOT down low, what is what is up with that?

  • Azbballfan

    i meant to say we are on our way back up, not we are on our back up hehe

  • Sunsn7

    I said during summer league that the Suns need to play Archie Goodwin 30+ minutes a game. Suns have a future all star if he continues working hard.

    He might ultimately end up being better than Bledsoe

  • JK

    There is no way that Goodwin is going to play 30 minutes a game in his first NBA season. The kid is only 19 years old! Just like Joseph D said, he looks like a scrawny D Wade out there. If we want Goodwin to have a long and productive career, we have to gradually bring him along.

  • john

    Excellent loss. 45 great minutes is all I want out of this team this year. The L’s at the end of the day are the goal. This team is exciting, and I’m hopeful that the turnaround could come as early as next year.

  • HunterSThompson

    Portland Suns Fan: Need some Archie highlights? Here ya go…enjoy the show!

    http://youtu.be/NmhIWiET3Mc

    Maybe Dave:f32 should watch as well. Almost every highlight is Goodwin DOMINATING McLemore head-to-head on both ends of the court…including my personal favorite, a one-on-one spin move for the finger roll layup.

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    Nice highlights, thanks :)
    He’s going to be a star.

  • Foreveris2long

    Yeah Hunter, Goodwin abused McLemore on that move. Goodwin, like ail rookies will have ups and downs all year but his ups are going to leave us begging for more.

  • Mel.

    Boogie’s gotta be marking his calendar for every game against the Suns this year: so far, we’re the only team that’s consistently making him look like he’s worth every last dollar of his new contract.

  • EBJM

    Well I totally agree with Dave:f32 about McElmore. When you have has many holes to fill as the Suns you take the best available player, NOT a project center with bad ankles.

    Sunsn7 I understand your point about Len/Tsakalidis but my point is Jake was taken 20 picks later and had a healthy NBA ready body.

    I really hate to go this route but we are all grown-ups here; when is the last time a dominant NBA center was a European picked in the lottery?

    The current European monster center, Nikola Pekovic was a 2nd rd pick. Marc Gasol was a 2nd rd pick and we all know I pushed hard for the Suns to draft him but the Suns let the Lakers take him and we know they rarely pick stiffs at center.

    Phoenix passed on a healthy Vlade Divac at #26 but take a flyer on Len at #5? I know different management but I just didn’t see it with two good ankles let alone the bad ones.

    The Magic found a gem in Nikola Vu?evi? at #16.

    The Raptors found Jonas Valan?i?nas at #17.

    Marcin Gortat was taken late in the 2nd rd.

    I still haven’t seen any justification when compared to the aforementioned guys.

    I know we can justify the pick a bit because the Suns lucked into Goodwin late in the 1st rd. Things might have gone the same way though as another team might have taken Len later still leaving Goodwin for Phoenix.

    To Dave:f32, I apologize for antagonizing you. You were attributing a little bit too much to me so you know how I love to go off. I’ promise to play nice in the future. My point about the Nets is I thought it was a ridiculously stupid trade by the Nets from day one, not whether they can preserve the old guys until the playoffs.

    Garnett was so close to handing in his retirement papers until Pierce talked him out of it. Jason Terry was not worth giving up MarShon Brooks for. He is now suffering in Boston after having a solid rookie year. Alan Anderson is playing just as well as Pierce in less minutes.

    The only old guys I can recall making a difference at an advanced age is Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and John Stockton.

    See Forever it didn’t take me “forever”! But what must be eating you is Len is sitting with pain in his ankles while Robin Lopez has become the “glue guy” in Portland’s race to the elite tier of the NBA while averaging a modest 8/7/1.5 But his rebounding is steadily improving and his rim protection has really allowed the other Blazers to flourish.

    Blazers rebound well as a team. They get 16 boards out of their perimeter guys and 9 more from Aldridge.

    If the Pelicans can obtain Asik then they could really emulate the Blazers success.

  • BCrayZ

    Shazam is right about the good analysis by Ryan.

    So, does that mean Shazam will treat me to tonight’s game?

    Just kidding. This was very much the same as many games thus far this year. What I’m saying is that it was a game of extremes.Very poor performance by Mark but very good game for twin Marc & Channing Frye. What we could have used is to have filled our open roster spot with Louis to bang with Cousins & give Frye some help. They play well together. Also a very good game for Green & a very poor game for PJ this time. Very good game for AG 20 but piss poor for both Ish & Gogi (Isiah had lots to do with that.) Gogi can not fly solo. What he needs is a 2nd capable ball handler with him, whether it was Nash or now Eric. Look at last year for confirmation of this. Even with stellar individual stats, a solo Gogi was not getting many wins for this team. Jeff is well aware of this. Last open roster spot? This could go to a rehabbed (from last year’s ACL tear) LB. Gogi is at his best when paired with the Brazilian Blur.

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Foreveris2long

    EBJM, Why did you have to go there? You know that leaves a really bad taste in my mouth knowing we could have secured Lopez for about $5m/yr and would have a 25 year old defensive center on this young team. If management would have at least called me to discuss I suspect I could have persuaded them to think my way.

    Putting Lopez aside for the moment, I think McD made a calculated gamble Goodwin would be available late in the 1st round. However when you consider how weak this draft was, it was a huge gamble. Since they worked him out they obviously thought they had a chance of selecting him late in the 1st round. I think the Suns gave a lot of thought into trying to predict Goodwin’s availability. So while I do not think it was total luck he was still available, I am curious who they would have selected if he had been picked prior to #29.

    I admit not picking McLemore does not trouble at all because of Goodwin and knowing next year’s draft will have some really good wingmen as well. I like Mac but never to the point he was going to be really special because I always questioned whether he had that killer instinct that I think Goodwin has.

    Let me preface this right now, Goodwin will likely never be as good as Kobe but recalling Kobe’s rookie campaign, mannerisms, body build, athleticism, never ending work ethic and being fearless, I do not think I have seen a player since to remind me of him like Goodwin does.

    EBJM and Dave 32 considering Kobe was not a top ten selection, do you think Jerry West and the Lakers lucked into selecting him?

    Good dialogue guys on a slow work day for me.

  • HunterSThompson

    EBJM – I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for you on this one! While I too am impressed with Lopez’s play this season, your praise for his future is entirely based on his ability to stay healthy with a shaky back. Just as many bigs have had their career ended by back injuries as ankles, no? Questioning the Suns for taking a chance on a big with ankle issues while also wishing they stuck with Robin seems contradictory…

    Also, when Lopez was here we all continually debated the benefits of having patience with him/be willing to wait for him to develop, while wanting the Suns to win immediately. Why do you appear to have no willingness to show the same patience for Len?

    The Suns do NOT need Len at all this season, but they have him in the fold to get healthy and quality instruction at the pro level. IF (and yes, with almost all guys from last year’s draft there is an “if”) he pans out to his potential the Suns have a uniquely qualified athletic Center to anchor this team from the inside out (your other beef with the Suns, no?). Why is that potential not worth a top-5 pick in a weak draft?

    Finally, forget McElmore for a minute – the upcoming draft is PACKED with PG/SG/SF prospects that look better than him. If the Suns end up with 3 picks in this draft (Washington looks to keep theirs this season) how are the Suns not getting that same caliber of player, just one year later? There does not appear to be many Center prospects in this draft that are more sure-fire than Len would be if he was just coming out now, so by drafting him last season we potentially get a healthy Len AND McElmore AND two more first rounders all at the same time…just next season and not this one.

    As always, time will tell…but I for one like the Len pick, AND like having him sit until fully healthy to potentially contribute when the Suns are more ready to make a run. For now I continue to dream of a banging PF….wherever he may currently reside.

    Cheers!

  • Andrew

    I’m amazed by the fact that Hornacek replaced Tucker with Smith with 2mins to go in the 4th and a tied game. What was the result of that move? No offense at all by Smith and a dumb foul by Smith when the kings were already on bonus that led to 2 easy FTs made by the kings. Also the last offensive possesion of the Suns with 5 secs left was terrible even after 2 straight time outs. I think this loss is on Hornacek. Although Im extremely pleased with Hornacek’s work so far his inexperience as a coach really hurt the Suns last night during the last mins of the game

  • Louis

    He put in Ish to try and keep up with isaiah thomas but that obviously didnt pan out.

  • DBreezy

    At this point, I’m still not worried about Len, Noel, or Bennett. They were all projects for various reasons and all are coming off injuries. It was always going to take time. Bennett might be in the biggest trouble simply because the media has taken to getting on him which can mess with a young guys head.

    Passing on BMac doesn’t bug me as I was never as high on him as some were. He doesn’t strike me as a smart player and I don’t see him making the same jump that Beal has made this season. Goodwin looks like he can be a much better player if he’s able to get his jumper consistent. At worst it seems like you could find an equivalent guy elsewhere fairly easily. I can’t say the same for long, mobile 5′s like Noel and Len.

    So I understand and am fine with the gambles the Suns and Sixers took on both. My biggest worry is if Noel’s knee is in fact fine, I think the Suns may regret passing on him. He is a special defensive presence beyond just the shot blocking. And he’s special in the fact that he’s a big guy who doesnt mope if he’s not getting the ball on O. However if Len can become a more mobile version of Marc Gasol, the Suns should be just fine long term and that’s what this is really all about, not the fast start.

  • HushPuppy

    EBJM-Jonas Valanciunas was the 5th overall pick, not #17 as you stated. Also, the Magic didnt really stumble across that gem Nikola Vecevic, Rob Hennigan recieved that gem as a throw in from Philly in the Dwight deal.

    Forever-Jerry West and the Lakers did not luck in to selecting Kobe, because they simply did not draft Kobe, Charlotte did. Kobe was seen as a throw in at the time for the Divac deal (The Lakers traded Divac to the Hornets for Kobe essentially to dump enough salary to sign Shaq). West liked Kobe’s athleticism and it seems his intuition paid off, for the trade and the FA signing.

  • Foreveris2long

    Hush, You are absolutely right about Hornets drafting Kobe but I think it was for the Lakers as Kobe did in fact work out for the Lakers prior to the draft. It was definitely a win win situation for the Lakers as they dumped Vlade’s salary.

    However I guess my point is whether the Lakers had a pre-draft deal or the Hornets drafted him to keep, was either team lucky because he was still available at #13?Thanks for clarifying Hush.

  • Dave:f32

    True that @Hawki! No ill will @EBJM all good, man!

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  • Voqar

    Suns are lacking maturity of confidence, which will get there.

    You can’t fault the hustle and the defense has been remarkable (it’s crazy to see how often it’s mentioned by press).

    They just need to pull it together for close games/crunch time.

    I figured the Suns would be getting destroyed nightly and they’ve been winning or barely losing competitive games. It is getting to suck to see them fail to hold on to leads or close out the close games though.

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    I always liked Fropez and thought he was underrated. I was unhappy they let him go, (I don’t think McD would have,) but I’m happy to have him here in p town. He fits in well with the Blazers. I think we drafted perfectly. It’s obviously much too early to tell but I think Len will be good, (probably much better than the fro,) and Archie is a potential star. It’s not inconceivable that he’ll end up being the best player in the draft… Add in an Orange Julius next year and we’ll have a real team.

  • foreveris2long

    Good stuff Suns Fan. If we got Orange Julius, all of planet Orange will be partying like there is no tomorrow.

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