Phoenix faced off against the Sacramento Kings with a familiar face watching from the crowd: Amar’e Stoudemire. The Suns were looking to win their fifth straight game, while Sacramento was looking to avoid losing its seventh game out of eight.
Early on it was a team effort that carried the Suns, as they jumped out to a 28-17 advantage, but the Kings would go on an extended run of their own to take a 44-43 lead late in the second quarter. Phoenix was ready to answer though, responding with a 7-0 run, and the Suns would remain in front for all but a few seconds for the rest of the game.
In the second half, the Suns got a big boost out of Isaiah Thomas, who ended the game with 17 points and 5 assists against his former team. Thomas had no problem mixing it up with some of the Kings’ players, and he was involved in a brief dust up that saw the Suns receive another technical foul. That being said, the undersized point guard was crucial for the team, as he provided the spark on offense.
There was even one moment where Thomas got to give the Kings a taste of their own proverbial medicine, as he beat the team down the floor for an easy layup. “Cherry-picking” is something the Kings have tried to do more under new head coach Ty Corbin, but in this game it seemed like Phoenix was getting the better looks in transition.
Eric Bledsoe also gave the Suns quality minutes, just one game removed from his impressive triple-double against the Mavericks. Bledsoe posted 18 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds, while shooting an efficient 7-of-11 from the floor, and he was third on the team with a plus/minus of +8. Bledsoe was able to get to the rim easier without having to worry about DeMarcus Cousins, and overall, Phoenix really benefited from the former Kentucky big man’s absence.
Ultimately, there were six players that really contributed to the Suns’ victory in a big way, combining for 98 of the team’s 115 points, and it was nice to get a game where things were really clicking on offense, as the Suns ended up shooting just a hair under 50% from the floor and over 42% from three. With the 115-106 victory, the Suns improved to 17-14 on the season, and they continue to hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Production from the 4
With the Suns playing their first game sans-Anthony Tolliver, at least one of the Morris twins was pretty much guaranteed to be on the court playing the power forward position at all times. Markieff and Marcus Morris were up to the challenge, combining for 22 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the first half alone, while shooting 4-of-4 from three-point range.
The Morris twins ended up with an impressive 37 points on 7-of-8 three-point shooting, as they carried the Suns to victory. It seemed like every time Sacramento went on a run, Markieff or Marcus was there to answer. Case in point, when the Kings had a second half spurt to take an 82-81 lead, the twins calmly answered with back-to-back buckets to put Phoenix ahead by 4. When the Kings tied it up again, at 88-all, Marcus Morris answered with another three.
Len’s strong start
Alex Len came out ready to play against the Kings, and he wasted little time in making his impact on the court. Len had 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in the first six minutes of the game, converting two pretty nice dunks.
Len was very active on defense, and by the end of the game, he racked up his third double-double on the season, with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Comparatively, Miles Plumlee struggled to get going early, playing just five minutes in the first half. Plumlee did help the Suns out on defense in the second half, but he allowed the Kings to get numerous offensive rebounds, and it’s no secret that the former Duke big man has certainly struggled as of late. Now, it’ll be interesting to see if the Suns move up and claim Tarik Black off waivers in order to provide more depth at the center position.
One of the things the Suns’ did well against the Kings was ball movement. Nine of the team’s first ten baskets were assisted on, and there seemed to be less standing around and isolation play, at least in the first half. By the end of the half, eight different Suns’ players had recorded multiple made field goals, and the team had assists on 73.9% of it’s baskets.
Things changed quite dramatically as game entered the third quarter. The ball seemed to stick more, and the Suns committed seven turnovers in the third period, which was more than they had in the entire first half. Phoenix allowed Sacramento back into the game, but ultimately the team was able to bear down and get the win by a semi-comfortable margin.