Disappointment lingered heading into the Phoenix Suns’ last game of the season, but Archie Goodwin made the smiles from the bench reappear one last time. Jeff Hornacek’s team beat the Sacramento Kings 104-99 to finish the year with a 48-34 record, locking this Phoenix team in as one of the best non-playoff teams in NBA history.
Goodwin, the rookie who had only three double-digit scoring games on the year, made the most of Hornacek’s generous playing time allowance on Wednesday in Sacramento. The Kentucky product bested his career-high of 16 by pouring in 29 points on 11-for-13 shooting from the floor. He hit just his fourth three-pointer of the year but scored the majority of his points as you’d expect.
Goodwin picked off steals, one time loading up a double-clutch, reverse dunk in front of the Suns bench. In the second half, Markieff Morris found Goodwin cutting to the hoop and from the post tossed a lob pass to the rookie, who finished with one hand before crashing into the backstop.
The Suns got 15 points, five boards and four assists from Morris, and 22 more points from brother Marcus.
Goran Dragic sat out the Suns’ 82nd game of the year but watched from the bench as a starting group of Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee played limited minutes. Among that group, Green led the way with 12 points, and perhaps the most significant part of their contributions was Frye’s start.
He started all 82 games of the season and finished as a double-digit scorer despite missing the entire 2012-13 campaign with a heart ailment.
Sacramento had enough reason to roll with its own young players, especially with center DeMarcus Cousins suspended for the season finale. Ben McLemore, once a favorite draft target of Suns fans, one-upped Phoenix’s eventual perimeter pick from the 2013 draft. He finished with 31 points.
Yet, Phoenix scrapped together solid defensive efforts down the stretch with a lineup of Ish Smith, the Morris twins, Goodwin and center Shavlik Randolph.
Smith, who has an unguaranteed contract next year, for the last time showed his value, producing a team-best plus-18 plus-minus by scoring eight and adding eight assists.
So the year is over, and Phoenix immediately heads into a time of reflection — though the starters were already there after the Monday loss to Memphis.
Bledsoe’s value moving forward must be decided up, as will Tucker’s. Frye is seeking a contract extension and has expressed the desire to stick around Phoenix beyond 2014-15, when he has a player option worth $6.8 million. On Monday, Frye called the year the most enjoyable of his eight-year NBA career.
For Goran Dragic, the simple next step is finding a couch and allowing his beaten-down body to heal.
The draft and free agency will come about, but in the next few weeks it’ll be about reflection. Taking the next step might come naturally for a team that took major leaps forward this year, but the hardest part of getting out of the doldrums is over.
How were Jeff Sanders’ pregame questions answered?
How do the rookies end things?
While Goodwin had a career day, fellow rookie Alex Len struggled to stay on the court. He and Randolph added 16 minutes each, but the fourth overall pick from 2013 went 0-for-4 from the floor. He did add four rebounds and a block as well.
No Cousins, no problem?
The Kings didn’t have DeMarcus Cousins, who was out due to suspension because of breaking the 16-technical limit, but his team still outrebounded the Suns 54-40. But Derrick Williams gave just seven points and three boards in 31 minutes while replacing Cousins in the starting lineup.
Who seems to “care” more?
Both teams made it clear that this was going to feel more like an exhibition game than any regular season outing from the last several months, but the Suns seemed more pressed in making sure they finished their year off with a win. Sacramento led 67-60 with four minutes left in the third, but Phoenix closed out the game by holding the Kings to 33 percent shooting and itself shooting 70 percent in the final 12 minutes.