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Suns Strokes: Phoenix Suns suffer definition of 'bad loss' to Kings
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Suns Strokes: Phoenix Suns suffer definition of ‘bad loss’ to Kings

PHOENIX — Now that is the definition of a bad loss; and there have been three such defeats this season to the Sacramento Kings — to three different head coaches, by the way.

But this one, a 108-99 loss in front of an announced crowd of 17,589 at US Airways Center Wednesday, may have been the worst one yet for the Phoenix Suns.

The opportunity to gain a game on Oklahoma City, which had lost by 39 points at San Antonio, was squandered by a rough first quarter — outscored 31-26 — and an even worse third quarter — outscored 25-17 — that saw the Suns (38-34) miss 16-of-22 shots.

Markieff Morris scored 24 points, while both Eric Bledsoe and Marcus Morris had 19 and Archie Goodwin chipped in with a season-best 15 off the bench.

Bledsoe played 35 minutes despite battling an illness that left the entire Suns offense sick to its stomach.

Three Suns turnovers helped the Kings go on a 14-0 run between the first and second quarters turning a two-point deficit into a 10-point advantage.

The Kings (26-45) won their fourth straight with seven players scoring in double figures, including all five starters, led by DeMarcus Cousins, whose 24 points and 11 rebounds marked his 43rd double-double of the season. Only Chicago’s Pau Gasol has more with 47.

The loss ended the Suns four-game winning streak and gave the Kings the season series, 3-1, for the first time since 2010-11.

THE GOOD

Markieff Morris scored six straight points, part of a nine-point first quarter in which he shot four-of-seven and added three rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. The last of his four made field goals, a 15-foot jumper at the 4:30 mark, gave the Suns a 20-17 lead, their largest advantage of the first half.

Goodwin’s 22-foot pull-up jumper beat the first-half buzzer, pulling the Suns to within five, 58-53. Goodwin scored seven of his 11 first-half points in the second quarter. He shot four-of-six plus one-of-three from the foul line to place in double figures for the third time in the last four games.

After missing seven of eight 3-point attempts in the first half, the Suns made three-of-eight in the third quarter. Bledsoe hit two in 58 seconds, his only two 3s of the game. His 19-point effort was his third in as many games with at least that many points and his seventh game in the last eight scoring at least 18. Over this eight-game stretch, Bledsoe is averaging 19.6 points on 47.0 percent shooting from the field and 38.2 percent from long range, 5.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals.

Looking for a spark offensively, the Suns turned to Gerald Green to start the fourth quarter. In his first appearance in three games, Green made two straight shots — a 17-foot and 14-foot jump shot — before missing three in a row and finished with four points in 10 minutes.

Marcus Morris scored five straight points, part of a 10-point fourth quarter in which he shot four-of-seven including a pair of 3s. Morris has now scored 17 or more points in four of his last six games, averaging 14.5 points on 46.1 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

Alex Len recorded four blocks; his 10th game this season with four or more blocks which is seventh-most in the NBA. He is the first Suns player with 10 four-block games since Amar’e Stoudemire had 15 such games in 2007-08.

THE BAD

Markieff Morris is closing in on an automatic one-game suspension. He was whistled for a technical foul with just 0.4 seconds left in the first quarter. It was his 14th of the season. Two more and he must sit out the next game in addition to being hit with a $5,000 fine.

Seven minutes into the game and the Suns had just as many turnovers as made field goals with six. Bledsoe and Len each committed a pair. The Suns finished with 18 turnovers, 10 coming in the first half in which the Kings converted into 13 points.

The Kings ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run and then scored the first seven points of the second quarter to take their largest lead of the half, 38-28, at the 10:15 mark. Nik Stauskas had eight points during the 14-0 run. He finished with 13 points, hitting five-of-seven shots.

The Suns’ struggles at the free throw line continued. They missed eight of their 16 first-half attempts, including a one-of-four performance by PJ Tucker. The Suns entered the game shooting 76.5 percent from the foul line, 13th-best in the league. It was an all-around rough night for Tucker as he shot just one-of-11, though he did grab a team-best 11 rebounds.

Rudy Gay accounted for six points during an 11-2 Kings run to close the third quarter. He assisted on Derrick Williams’ alley-oop layup and Cousins’ dunk before scoring on a reverse layup to give Sacramento its largest lead of the game, 83-70 with 32.9 remaining in the period.

STAT OF THE GAME

31: The number of first-quarter points scored by the Kings, who never trailed after Stauskas’ 21-foot jump shot put them up 28-26 with 25.9 seconds remaining in the period

HE SAID IT

“It’s the same thing we talk about all the time — you can’t let a team get going in the first quarter. We gave them 31 points to start the game. If a team scores 31, we know how it is when we’re on the road and we score 30 points in the first quarter, now you feel confident that you can score on the team and that’s what happened. We never really got to stop them.” — head coach Jeff Hornacek

NOTED

Just 53 seconds into the game, Hornacek picked up a technical foul—his first since Nov. 30 and fourth of the season—for arguing a late foul call on Marcus Morris

The game featured 12 lead changes in the first six minutes and 15 in the first quarter or five fewer than the Suns and Kings combined for in their three previous meetings this season

After a pregame on-court workout to test his sprained left ankle, Brandon Knight was not comfortable with giving it a go so he sat out his seventh straight game

Marcus Thornton missed his fourth game in a row because of a right great toe sprain

UP NEXT

Another home game coming up on Friday, March 27 with a visit by the Portland Trail Blazers, leaders of the Northwest Division. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Suns and Blazers have split the first two meetings this season after the Suns won three of four against Portland last season.

In the most recent matchup, the Suns fought back from a 19-point deficit to briefly take a lead late in the third quarter, but the Blazers outscored them 42-22 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 108-87 victory at Moda Center Feb. 5.

LaMarcus Aldridge became the Blazers’ all-time double-doubles leader with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Nicolas Batum posted game-highs of 20 points and seven assists. Markieff Morris led the Suns with 18 points and Bledsoe added 17 as the only two Suns who reached double-figures.

The Suns have won seven of the last 10 and nine of the last 13 in the series.