Posted: Jan. 2, 2011
The high-scoring Phoenix Suns strayed from their usual up-tempo attack and focused on aggressive defense in their most recent victory.
Against the slumping Sacramento Kings, they may not have to change much to outscore their division rivals.
The Suns look to beat the Kings for the seventh straight time as the teams meet Sunday night in Sacramento.
Phoenix (14-17) is second in the NBA in scoring at 107.4 points per game, but it took a half-court approach in a 92-75 win Friday against Detroit. The Suns had allowed 100-plus points in 10 of its previous 11 games, and coach Alvin Gentry ran an extended defense-first practice prior to facing the Pistons.
"I told the guys 'We are going to start judging our defense from this day forward,"' Gentry said.
The change paid off. They held Detroit to 41 percent shooting and seemed to confuse the Pistons with the sudden change in philosophy.
It was the least amount of points Phoenix allowed since a 109-75 victory Feb. 16, 2006, against Houston.
Jared Dudley and Vince Carter scored 19 points each for the Suns, who ended a four-game losing streak.
Steve Nash tied a season-low with only three field goal attempts and scored seven points in just less than 20 minutes. Nash, who won back-to-back MVP awards directing Phoenix's fast-paced offense, wasn't counted on to carry the Suns on Friday.
"We didn't care about offense because you figure if you can defend, you can score every time," guard Goran Dragic said. "Everybody was engaged, everyone was pressuring. Rotation was good. Hopefully we're going to play like this in the future."
If they do, the Suns may have an easy time with the struggling Kings.
Sacramento (6-24) has scored less than 100 points in 19 of 25 games after cracking the century mark in its first five contests. The Kings have lost 20 of 23, including a 104-86 loss Saturday against Denver.
"In the second quarter if we could have had a well-played quarter we could have gotten the lead and made that game very interesting," coach Paul Westphal said. "Instead we took bad shots and were careless with our execution and let them get the leads."
Jason Thompson scored 17 points and rookie DeMarcus Cousins added 16 and eight rebounds in his first start since Dec. 21. Sacramento, though, was dominated on the boards against Denver, losing the battle 58-35.
"That is surprising because we're usually aggressive on the boards," said Cousins, who had season highs of 21 points and 16 rebounds Wednesday against Memphis.
Tyreke Evans has been inconsistent, scoring only 12 points on 6 of 17 shooting against the Nuggets. He had averaged 26.5 points on 46.3 percent shooting his previous two games.
Bouncing back against Phoenix may be difficult. Sacramento has lost five of six at home to Phoenix and 19 of 21 overall.
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