With every win, the Suns are closer to that elusive playoff berth they’ve been hunting for a decade, and now sit just one win behind the Utah Jazz (41-14) for the best record in the whole league.
The Suns 40-15 record is their best record after 55 games since the height of the Nash/Amare/Marion days (42-13 in 2007).
In this one, the big three were big again. Devin Booker had 23 points and 4 assists, Chris Paul had 13 and 11 with 3 steals, and Deandre Ayton had a big big game with 26 points (10-11 FG, 6-6 FTs), 11 rebounds and a block. Off the bench, Jevon Carter was the player of the game with 13 points.
But the game wasn’t a runaway, despite the Kings coming in on an 8-game losing streak. Once again, the Suns played down to their lowly competition, trying to simply score too much to lose. It’s worked recently against several bad teams, but the Kings — despite an 8-game losing streak — are better than some of those teams. And they came to play, shooting 55% for the game, including 47% on threes.
But the Suns ultimately were just better, especially in the clutch, and pulled away to the 122-114 win.
How it happened
The Suns came out hot, launching threes like they were gonna expire at midnight. 10 of their first 14 shots were from long range (they made 6) to take a 24-17 lead. Booker made 3 of 6 in that span.
But the Kings mostly kept pace in this lazy, non-physical game, and were down just 26-22 when the Suns called a timeout to refocus. The Kings started old friend Damian Jones at center, but it was Hassan Whiteside off the bench who grabbed 6 rebounds and scored 6 quick points in his 6 first quarter minutes.
Suns up 33-28 after one because mainly they are coasting through the game like Monday vs. Houston Rockets. Will the Suns hold on? Very likely. But it won’t be a blowout.
In the second quarter, both teams turned up the scoring heat while blasting cold air on the defensive temperature. Seems like a preseason game atmosphere to me.
By halftime, the Suns were up only 67-65 because they let the Kings shoot 57% from the field, including 55% on threes. Wut.
The Kings and Suns just kept making basket after basket. Both teams are top-11 on offense, so I guess I can understand. But then I remember the Kings are godawful on defense while the Suns are supposed to be good. Start being good at that, Suns.
Mid-third the Suns pulled away a bit with consecutive makes off Kings turnovers (84-77), but the Kings just would not go away and pulled back to 86-84 in a blur.
And once again, DA was not getting calls. He was fouled multiple times at the rim but nothing was called. His offseason goal will have to be learning how to sell fouls.
The Suns were only up 95-94 after three because… well, they just didn’t seem interested in playing defense. How else do you explain shooting 62% but only being up one point?
The fourth quarter stayed super-close, but suddenly the tenor of the game began to change. The Suns second unit, along with Chris Paul in his usual early-fourth stint, decided to play aggressive, force turnovers and drive to the rim. But they stopped making open threes, so the game stayed close anyway.
Jevon Carter was making big plays in this game, at this point up to 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assist and a steal to help the Suns take a 105-99 lead.
Still the Kings would not go away, pulling back to 108-104 on a pair of driving layups.