With dreams of reaching the postseason officially in their rear-view mirror, the Phoenix Suns were content to play for pride Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.
In an effort to given plenty of the team’s reserves quality minutes, head coach Jeff Hornacek played 12 total players, including rookie guard Archie Goodwin.
Goodwin scored a career-high 29 points on 11-of-13 from the field, Marcus Morris pitched in with 22 points off the pine and the Suns closed out their impressive, 48-win season with a 104-99 victory over the Kings.
While Goodwin excelled in his final appearance of 2013-14, his fellow rookie Alex Len did not. Len failed to score in his 16 minutes of action.
In his first season, Len made 33 baskets in 42 games.
Even with the loss, Sacramento (2-2) was one of only two non-playoff teams to finish with at least two wins against Phoenix this season, joining the Utah Jazz (2-2).
Wednesday night marked just the fourth time all season that rookie guard Archie Goodwin finished with double-digit scoring. Ironically, two of those four performances came in Sacramento.
Although he sat out Wednesday’s game in Sacramento due to a left ankle injury, Goran Dragic finished the 2013-14 season in pretty rarefied air. Dragic became the first guard to finish a season averaging 20 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range and 50 percent from the field since Drazen Petrovic (1992-93). Before Petrovic, the last NBA guard to achieve the feat was Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek in 1991-92.
Morris’ 22 points tied a season-high set back in a 114-108 victory over the Los Angles Lakers on Dec. 10.
Phoenix was 13-6 this season when Morris scored at least 15 points.
With the win, the Suns finished with a 48-34 record — the largest turnaround in the NBA this season. However, the 23-game improvement is not the biggest in franchise history.
The 1969-70 Suns also improved by 23 games. The 1999-2000 Suns improved by 26. The 1988-89 Suns improved by 27 games. And, the 2004-05 Suns improved by a franchise-high 33 games.
The only difference is, however, that those four squads made the postseason.
Eric Bledsoe made his career-high 40th start of the season. Although he only scored six points in limited minutes, the fourth-year guard showed more than enough throughout the campaign. Bledsoe finished with career-highs in points (18.0), assists (5.5) and rebounds per game (4.8).
48 Part I:
With a 48-34 record, the Suns became the second-best team based on record not to reach the postseason, joining the 1970-71 Suns.
The 1971-72 Suns hold the record, winning 49 games despite failing to reach the playoffs.
48 Part II:
Among rookie head coaches, Hornacek’s 48 wins were the second-most, just two shy of Dave Joeger’s 50.
What a difference a year makes. After being forced to the sidelines for the entire 2012-13 campaign because of an enlarged heart, Suns forward Channing Frye became the only the member of the team to start all 82 games this season.
Frye scored five points Wednesday in 21 minutes.
With his 15-point performance, Markieff Morris finished 2013-14 with 1,115 points off the bench. It’s the third-highest total in franchise history, just short of Dan Majerle (1991-92) and Eddie Johnson (1988-89).
Before the Suns boarded their flight back to Phoenix, they closed out the year with one final message for their fans back home: