Suns Come Up Flat in Loss to Kings

by Ben York

Phoenix appeared poised for a furious response in the wake of three consecutive one-possession losses. Goran Dragic erupted for the Suns’ first 11 points to help them take an early lead over Sacramento.

The opening salvo was quickly returned and, ultimately, suppressed. The Kings muscled their way to a 113-106 win, their second victory in as many nights over the Suns.

Game two was a harsher defeat than the first, if only because the Suns recognized their much softer offering in the effort departments. They were beat to loose balls and overpowered in the paint. The results showed through discrepancies in free throw attempts (38-to-22) and turnovers (17 for Phoenix).

“Tonight was the first night we probably didn’t have the effort,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. “They outhustled us on most things, especially early on in the game.”

The Suns leaned on Dragic (31 points) and Gerald Green (23 points, 6-of-8 from three) early and a small-ball lineup featuring P.J. Tucker at center late in the game. The latter group cut a 20-point lead to seven twice in the final four minutes, but turnovers and defensive lapses essentially negated the run – Sacramento countered Phoenix’s 44 fourth-quarter points with 39 of their own.

Tucker scored all 12 of his points In the final 4:42, taking advantage of his quickness and outside shooting against Cousins. Dragic followed his second three-pointer of the night with a slashing layup, cutting the deficit to six with 1:15 remaining.

Phoenix frustrated the Kings into nearly committing a 24-second violation on the ensuing possession, but Dragic was called for a foul after Greivis Vasquez’s three-pointer failed to make contact with the rim or backboard.

Hornacek was happy to see the game-ending effort, but admitted it came late on Wednesday night and needs to come more often.

“The last group, when we went with the small group, at least tried to fight,” Hornacek said. “P.J.’s fighting Cousins in there, obviously at a different size. WE just need more of that (effort).”

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Tucker added. “I felt like we gave a game in Sacramento last night, so to come back home with our energy level, our effort and our focus not to be there, it’s definitely not good. We’re definitely a young team and we learn on the fly, but at the same time, some games like this, we’ve got to get a couple of them.”

Phoenix fell to 5-6 on the season heading into a three-game road trip that stops at Charlotte, Orlando and Miami. Sacramento had entered the two-game series with a 2-7 record. The Kings sported the fifth-worst field goal percentage in the league at just over 41 percent, but shot 47 and 46 percent on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

“I don’t know if we didn’t expect that out of these guys,” Hornacek said. “They had a team that had 42 percent shooting prior to the two games we played. They shot the ball well against us. Our defense wasn’t very good.”