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Suns Strokes: Suns look like different team under Triano in win over Kings

Phoenix Suns head coach Jay Triano yells during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Phoenix. It was Triano's first game as the Suns' head coach. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The Jay Triano era is underway and the Phoenix Suns are 1-0.

One day after the team fired Earl Watson and named Triano interim head coach, the Suns looked like a different team. Yes, they still had their defensive issues, but when the buzzer sounded to end the game, they were the team exchanging high-fives and handshakes.

Devin Booker scored seven of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns held off the Sacramento Kings, 117-115, in front of an announced crowd of 14,903 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Monday.

It was the Suns’ first time after three straight losses to begin the season.

The Suns (1-3) didn’t make it easy on themselves. They led by 11 with 3:08 to play only to watch the Kings tie the game at 112 with 58 seconds left. And that’s when the Suns responded.

Mike James banked in a five-foot driving layup, Booker and Troy Daniels combined to make 3-of-4 free throws and the defense came up with a crucial stop as Garrett Temple’s potential game-winning three-pointer fell short at the horn, preserving the much-needed victory and leaving Dallas as the only winless team in the Western Conference.

That it even came down to the end was perhaps a sign of the Suns’ youth.

The Suns had a 19-point lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 22 points.

Booker, who shot 8-of-16 from the field with a pair of threes, was one of five Suns players in double figures. Marquese Chriss (19 points), James (18), Josh Jackson (15) and Tyler Ulis (11) reached double-digits as well.

James added a game-high seven assists. He got the start with Eric Bledsoe not with the team.

Tyson Chandler grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.

The Kings (1-3) were led by Temple’s career-high-tying 23 points.

THE GOOD

Made shots. Ball movement. Rebounding. Who are these guys? Suns fans had to be asking themselves that question in the first quarter. The Suns jumped in front 13-2 and extended the lead to 32-10 at the 2:07 mark thanks to a 10-0 run that saw Chriss and Dragan Bender each hit threes. Chriss finished the period with a team-best 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field. As a team, the Suns shot 70-percent (14-of-20), had nine assists and outrebounded the Kings 13-5.

Getting the start, James accounted for 11 first-quarter points with three points and four assists. He then followed that up with an eight-point showing in the second quarter. James shot 4-of-5 from the field, and though he didn’t have an assist, he did grab one rebound and had one steal in the period. At halftime, James, on a two-way contract and in his first NBA season, was the team’s leading scorer with 11 points, helping the Suns go into the locker room with a 59-51 advantage.

Call it a block party. And it was a party of one. Chriss blocked three shots in the third quarter. Nineteen seconds into the period, he swatted Willie Cauley-Stein’s six-foot pull-up jumper; two minutes later, Hield had his two-foot shot attempt rejected; and finally, Chriss blocked a seven-foot driving layup by George Hill. And if that wasn’t enough, Chriss, who had four blocks total entering the game, added seven points on 3-of-5 shooting, two rebounds and one assist in the period.

Both James, who shot 8-of-10 from the field with two threes, and Jackson, 6-of-8 shooting with one three-pointer, have now started their careers with at least 10-plus in four straight games. That tied Alvan Adams for the second-longest such streak in Suns history behind only Walter Davis. James (53 points) and Jackson (50) have the fourth and fifth most points, respectively, through four career games ever by a Suns player, trailing only Adams (82), Davis (66) and Wesley Person (56).

THE BAD

The Kings’ rookie backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic—the later a former Suns draft pick—combined for 21 second-quarter points. Fox had nine on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and three free throws, while Bogdanovic went for 12 hitting 5-of-6 shot attempts including one three-pointer. Twice the Kings pulled to within six points. They outscored the Suns, 34-23, in the period thanks to 52 percent shooting.

Sloppy basketball in the third quarter by the Suns. They turned the ball over six times, including four times over a 91-second stretch in which the Kings scored six points to pull to within 67-61 at the 6:14 mark. All total, the Kings converted the six turnovers into nine points. Booker committed a pair of turnovers (on back-to-back possessions), while Bender, Chandler and Ulis each had one apiece.

Defending the 3-pointer remains an issue for the Suns. The Kings hit five of their nine made threes in the fourth quarter. All five, by the way, were by Temple, who for a stretch there could not miss. He hit back-to-back threes to pull the Kings to within two, 112-110, at the 1:20 mark. Temple, who scored 16 of his 23 points (on 8-of-13 shooting from the field) in the fourth quarter, finished with six 3-pointers, setting a new career-high.

STAT OF THE GAME

54.5 vs. 43.4: The Suns shot 54.5 percent from the field, while limiting the Kings to 43.4 percent, a Suns’ opponent season-low

HE SAID IT

“Possibly the threat of not playing,” Triano said, referring to what he saw from Chriss that he didn’t in previous games. “That’s still one of the biggest things for these guys. Despite how much money they make, they want to play the game. I told all of the players, if I don’t see an energy level to my standards, I’m going to get subs in. We’re going to play at a high level, we’re going to be energized, and if you don’t play that way, I’ll find someone that will.”

NOTED

The Suns ended a three-game home losing streak against the Kings, their longest home skid in the series.

Jared Dudley made his season debut and played 4:41; he had been on the inactive list for all three games.

In addition to Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Davon Reed, Alan Williams and Alec Peters were listed as inactive.

Peters, signed to a two-way contract, has joined the NAZ Suns, who began their training camp on Monday.

UP NEXT

Another Suns home game, their fourth in five games to start the season.

The Suns host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

The series has been one-sided as of late with the Jazz winning seven straight, their longest winning streak in series history. They swept the Suns last season, 3-0.

Overall, though, the Suns have had better success at home, winning seven of the last 12 meetings in Phoenix.

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