Shorthanded Suns embarrassed on home floor in loss to Kings
PHOENIX — Without Devin Booker and T.J. Warren, the Phoenix Suns were not favored to beat the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Beyond that obvious caveat, the Suns are also expected to compete like any other NBA team.
Sure, maybe the game gets away from them in the third quarter or they face a double-digit deficit at halftime.
But they couldn’t do that against Sacramento, playing an embarrassing first quarter in a 122-105 loss.
In that first quarter, the Suns were outscored 36-9. Eight minutes into the game, the Suns had more turnovers (seven) than points (six). They shot 3-of-17 from the field and at two separate points walking back to the bench were loudly booed by the home crowd.
Head coach Igor Kokoskov said after the game he’s never seen anything like it.
“I can’t remember, even if I’m trying hard to remember, as a coach at any level that I coach and I played that I lost (the) first quarter by 30,” he said. “So we can say that we didn’t know what was going to happen, just completely unprepared mentally, and we took a hit hard.”
Deandre Ayton is only a rookie and the team’s total effort is not on him, but as the No. 1 overall pick and the team’s most talented player on Tuesday night, the Suns needed the response to come through him.
On some possessions, he delivered. He had some moments in the second quarter, along with Trevor Ariza.
On others, he did this.
The loss is not on Ayton, and like many of the younger players, he was lost in a moment he could never relate to a previous experience.
“I don’t even know,” Ayton said when asked of what happened in the first quarter. “I don’t know. I don’t know. This is my first time being in a situation like that.”
Kokoskov noted Ayton was not the only Suns player to lack the right energy, but still noted what he didn’t bring.
“He didn’t come ready to play and there were just some other guys who showed up better prepared, more focused, played harder,” Kokoskov said. “And it’s a process for a young (player). Ayton is a rookie, he’s going to hit a wall, he’s going to have bad games and we’re still here to support him and coach him and teach him.”
Ayton is definitely going to learn from that first quarter.
“I have never been in that situation before where we’re down by that much in the first quarter,” he said.
With eight minutes left in the second quarter, the Suns were down 33.
If not for an 11-point second quarter from Ariza, the Suns would have been down much more than 28 points at halftime.
The second half was only delaying the inevitable.
“This is the NBA,” Ayton said. “You’re down by that much, especially that early, there’s no way you’re getting back into the game.”
On the bright side, the Suns showed life in the fourth quarter. They outscored the Kings 38-23 and a lot of it had to with the play of De’Anthony Melton, who was the lone positive for Phoenix.
“He was going downhill instead of side-to-side, he put pressure on the bigs and put pressure on the rim,” Kokoskov said of Melton. “I’m glad he had a decent game. It’s hard to find anything positive, but that’s a positive.”
Melton did not play in the first quarter and was present for most of the Suns’ good play in the last three quarters. He scored a team-high 21 points, dished out five assists and was plus-24.
“De’Anthony really showed out that he can play,” Ayton said. “On both ends of the floor, he showed a lot of effort and really tried to get us back in the game.”
The Suns are in Portland on Thursday facing the Trail Blazers at 8 p.m. You can listen live to the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.