Ulis’ Great Start Usurped by Skal’s Revenge

Mar 15, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) dunks the ball in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Sacramento Kings won 107 - 101. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 15, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) dunks the ball in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Sacramento Kings won 107 - 101. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

In a game where the Suns intentionally shortened their lineup even further with the “resting” of Eric Bledsoe, they turned to two young rookies to try and lead them to victory.


When the Suns traded for Marquese Chriss, fans knew that whoever the Kings would eventually draft they would want to watch those players’ progression to see who the Suns could  have had, even if there really never was any interest.

Tonight Skal Labissiere got his “revenge” on the Suns for trading him – or not drafting him, I’m not sure – and shattered a number of previous career-high’s, especially scoring. Although, it took him a while to get started.

With the game still entirely in doubt heading into the fourth quarter, Skal, who had only scored 11 points through three, caught fire. Taking the team’s first five field goal attempts (connecting on four of them) Skal scored the Kings’ first 16 points of the quarter, a streak that was only broken up by a single Willie Cauley-Stein free throw with 5:49 remaining in the period. The first non-Skal field goal was then not made until Joey Galloway nailed a jumper with 4:44 remaining.

By the way, the first non-Skal field goal attemt was this:


In the meantime, the Suns to that point had struggled to score (more on their awful shooting in a moment) finding themselves outscored by Sacramento 19-14 due to 5-15 shooting, including 0-4 from Devin Booker, and were now down four points.

Unable to tame the beast named Skal, Sacramento continued to nail both field goals and free throws at an exceptional clip allowing the Suns to literally shoot themselves out of the game. Phoenix, who again had held a lead heading into the fourth, finished the quarter 10-28 from the field and a poor 4-7 from the line. Devin Booker, who had scored ten points in the game’s first 6:04, shot 0-7 in the quarter where it mattered most.

If Skal Labissiere really did want to consider this a revenge game for any reason (at one point

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during his torrid stretch after draining a bucket he came down court glaring at the Suns bench and directly at Head Coach Earl Watson), he did just that. Sacramento’s potential rookie replacement for DeMarcus Cousins shattered his career-high of 15 points set exactly one week ago against the San Antonio Spurs by scoring a game-high 32 points off the bench, including 21 in the fourth. He did this in the most efficient of manner too, shooting 11-15 from the field, and 9-11 from the free throw stripe.

Unfortunately what should have been the lead had the Suns managed to pull the game out, with Eric Bledsoe out for a game of rest, Tyler Ulis was awarded his first career start at point guard and played alongside his best friend Devin Booker – the first time they have ever started together in either college or the pros.

Ulis proved over and over again throughout the night why he was the biggest steal in last summer’s NBA draft, finishing with several career-high’s himself, and one very impressive record:

Playing in a career and game-high 39:36 minutes (and every minutes of the second half save for 2:57 of the 4th quarter due to an illness to Leandro Barbosa) Ulis carried the team on his back as best he could, playing the lead of a pass-first point guard, the best the Suns have seen in sometime. Ulis dolled out a career-high 13 assists tied for the season-high for the Suns set by Eric Bledsoe on two occasions.

Ulis also scored 13 points, securing a double-double, the first of his career, though shot a poor 6-18 from the field including 1-5 from beyond the arc. The rookie also recorded two steals and a blocked shot, one of a season-high 11 for the Suns (zero from Alex Len).

Oh, and that record:

The Suns shot an anemic 40.2% from the field and 24.0% from beyond the arc tonight, although the number of shots they attempted actually enhanced the impact of such a poor shooting night. Their field goal percentage was the 7th worst on the season and their 107 field goal attempts were tied for the most they have shot in a single game, the other time coming in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on November 12. (107 field goal attempts is also the league’s second highest in a non-overtime game, the highest set by the Lakers at 108 on January 17). Their 24.0% was the 11th worst shooting game from beyond the arc on the season as well as the 5th worst in games where they attempted at least 25.

Aside from the blocked shots, another bright note however was their 25 assists, which tied from the 7th most in a season where they average 19.3, second worst in the league.

T.J. Warren led the Suns in shooting and scoring, dropping 24 points on 12-16 shooting for 80%. (Other than Warren’s shooting the Suns shot 34.0% from the field, although even that would have only been the second worst shooting game of the year for Phoenix). Warren’s 24 points was the most since scoring 24 at the Clippers on January 2. He fell one rebound shy of his third double-double in five games, but added 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Over his last five games, Warren is averaging 16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. He is also shooting a flaming hot 56.1% from the field.

Alan Williams is probably adding about $250,000 to his next contract every time he records a double-double, and recorded another one tonight scoring 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 8th double-double in the last 10 games. Over that stretch he is averaging 13.6 points,10.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks while shooting 51.4% from the field.

Marquese Chriss put together a highlight reel of dunks tonight worthy of SportsCenter Top-10 consideration, and overall scored 17 points, grabbed 7 boards, and blocked 5 shots, tying his career-high set on March 5 vs Boston.

Besides Skal Labissiere’s career-high 32 points, he added a career-high 11 rebounds as well as 2 steals. He did so in 29:40 which was – you guessed it – a career-high. Willie Cauley-Stein recorded a double-double of his own with 14 points and 11 caroms, while Aaron Afflalo, Kosta Koufos, and Ty Lawson each reached double-digit scoring.

As an aside, the Kings took 28 fewer shots tonight than the Suns, finishing 38-79 from the field for 48.1%.

Following the game, John Gambodoro has reported that the Suns have shut Eric Bledsoe down for the remainder of the season. He also reported that the Suns had asked Brandon Knight to play tonight, but he sat out due to back spasms. It then appears that Knight will re-appear in the Suns rotation and take Bledsoe’s spot.