#SunsVsKings: Player, Play and Takeaway of the Game

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It might have been the first preseason opener that featured a standing crowd on the last defensive possession of the game.

That's what happens when regular season dramatics meet an exhibition setting. The Suns came out on top of the combination with a 102-98 win thanks to superb bench play and several late defensive stands. The victory was the first under the newly named Talking Stick Resort Arena, which was officially opened two hours before tip-off.

Reserve forwards T.J. Warren and Jon Leuer led the Suns with 17 points apiece. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe combined for 29 points in limited minutes while Phoenix enjoyed a nine-rebound advantage on the glass.

Phoenix trailed by as many as 16 points before the bench unit outplayed the Kings reserves. Warren's mid-range jumper put them up 95-93 with four-and-a-half minutes remaining, and Phoenix's defense held on from there.

Sacramento had a chance with the ball and trailing by two on the final possession of the game, but backup big man Henry Sims' defense forced Darren Collison to miss his potential go-ahead three-pointer.

The Player

Leuer stole the show early with a poster-worthy dunk over DeMarcus Cousins (we'll get there), but it was his consistent hustle and efficient shooting that made him an early fan favorite. The fifth-year forward finished with 17 points (6-8 FG) and 13 rebounds in just 19 minutes of play.

"Jon's played well all training camp," said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. "He's out there trying to earn minutes. That's how Jon plays. He's just solid. He does the right things."

"He played great," Knight added. "Since I've been in the league he's been a solid player. He's here for a reason. He's been solid all throughout training camp and that's what we expect from him."

The Play

DeMarcus Cousins, coming off an All-Star 2014-15 campaign, was already waiting near the lane. Perhaps he thought his combination of size, athleticism and reputation would force Leuer to pull up in transition.

If so, he was mistaken. Leuer took the ball in his right hand and extended it all the way to his side before wind-milling the ball over Cousins' block attempt.

"I saw DeMarcus coming and I just tried to go up as hard as I could because I know he's a big guy and a good athlete," Leuer said sheepishly. "Fortunately I came out on the right end of it.

The Suns bench erupted on the sideline immediately after the play before mobbing Leuer during the subsequent timeout.

"He made great play and the bench did a great job of celebrating," Knight said.

The Takeaway

Phoenix was pleased with the energy and composure from a young bench, but wish it hadn't been necessary to make up for a slow start by the starters. Several of them improved after halftime, but the Suns are hoping they won't need to wait that long for the regulars to get going.

“We've gotten a lot of reps together. We made some mistakes out there, but for the most part we played really hard. We're trying to do the right thing and it's really starting to show.”

— Jon Leuer

"I thought our bench guys played great," Hornacek said. "Every guy that came off the bench played hard. They did the things we asked. Our first group, they need to get some work. We stress pressure defense, get after guys and we start off the game and gave them four three-pointers that were half-contested. They'll get better."

Leuer credited the reserves' production to the group's preseason work. Nearly all of them joined Eric Bledsoe well before most teams began informal workouts.

"I think that just comes with the repetitions that we've had in practice and even before training camp started," Leuer said. "We've gotten a lot of reps together. We made some mistakes out there, but for the most part we played really hard. We're trying to do the right thing and it's really starting to show.

"We've got a long ways to go still," he added, "but it's a good first step."