Suns Strokes: Phoenix falls to Kings in battle of injury-depleted teams
PHOENIX — Perhaps it was just too good to last.
Looking to match a season-best winning streak, the Phoenix Suns instead dropped their fourth-straight home contest, losing 105-101 to Sacramento in front of an announced crowd of 17,288 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Monday.
Seth Curry burned his former team for 20 points and a career-high 15 assists to record his first career double-double. He was one of six Kings players to reach double figures in scoring, but no one had a better effort than Curry, the one-time Suns 10-day contract signee, who added a career-best three steals.
The Suns, meanwhile, got 26 points off the bench from Mirza Teletovic and 22 from starter Devin Booker.
It was Teletovic’s third straight 20-point game, a new career-long and the longest streak by a Suns reserve since Isaiah Thomas did so in four straight from Jan. 19-25, 2014.
Teletovic and Booker combined for 14 fourth-quarter points as the Suns (22-59) nearly rallied all the way back from a 17-point second-half deficit, pulling to within two on three different occassions.
The Kings (33-48) answered each challenge to win their second straight and take the season series against the Suns, 3-1, this despite the absence of Darren Collison, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, each of whom stayed back in Sacramento for rest.
The Suns, too, played short-handed.
Tyson Chandler (concussion protocol) and Archie Goodwin (left ankle sprain) missed the game, leaving the Suns with only nine healthy players.
Alex Len (16 points, 12 rebounds), P.J. Tucker (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Jon Leuer (12 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles.
The loss ended the Suns’ modest two-game winning streak but did keep them a game back of Brooklyn for the the third-worst record in the NBA.
Midway through the first quarter all five Suns starters had scored. Leuer and Booker hit jump shots, 18- and 14-feet respectively, on back-to-back possessions to join their teammates in the scoring column. The Booker basket put the Suns up five, 16-11, at the 6:01 mark, their largest lead of the period. Len performed the best in the quarter with team-highs in points (six) and rebounds (three).
The first nine Suns points of the second quarter were scored by Teletovic, giving him 11 for the game, thus extending his streak of reaching double figures to a career-long-tying 11 straight games. He finished the period with 14 and had a game-high 16 points at halftime. Teletovic through two quarters shot 6-of-13, including 2-of-6 from beyond the arc, and made both of his free throw attempts.
Slowed by foul trouble in the first half, Booker (four fouls) picked things up in the third quarter. He scored a team-best 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting plus a pair of free throws. His points came on consecutive possessions on three different occasions. His second set of baskets—a pair of lay-ups assisted by Tucker and Price, respectively—pulled the Suns to within five, 64-59, at the 6:30 mark.
A late 13-0 surge by the Suns brought the home team to within two, 94-92, at the 3:12 mark of the fourth quarter. Teletovic scored five (including one 3-pointer), while Booker added four. Teletovic finished the period with eight points (hitting a pair of 3s); and is finishing the season strong. Over his last six games, he is averaging 22.3 points and over his last 11 gamess, he is averaging 19.0 points.
Leading by five points halfway through the first quarter, the Suns went cold. They missed eight consecutive shots, going more than four minutes (4:03 to be exact) between made field goals. The Kings, in the meantime, went on a 12-0 run with both Curry and Quincy Acy scoring four points. James Anderson punctuated the run with a fast-break dunk to give the Kings a 23-16 lead at the 2:19 mark.
The Suns surrendered an 8-0 run early in the second quarter to fall behind by nine points, their largest deficit of the first half. Caron Butler (five points) and Rudy Gay (three points) accounted for all of the scoring with Gay’s free throw at 8:35 putting the Kings ahead 38-29. Butler ended the period with seven points, sharing team-high honors with Kosta Koufos, who led the Kings with 11 at halftime.
Already with a career-high assist total (nine) by halftime, Curry added four more in the third quarter. His fourth was an alley-oop pass to Willie Cauley-Stein to cap a 12-4 run and hand the Kings their largest lead of the game, 85-68, at the 1:46 mark. Curry also scored a team-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting with a pair of 3s, giving him 18 for the game. He accounted for 18 of the Kings’ 31 third-quarter points.
The Kings held a block party with seven of their season-high-tying 12 coming in the second half. The 12 blocks also tied a Suns opponent season-high. Every Kings player with the exception of Butler had one with Gay leading the way with four. Cauley-Stein, Acy and Anderson each had three. By the way, Cauley-Stein (11 points) reached double figures for the 20th time this season.
STAT OF THE GAME
51: The number of points Curry was responsible for between his 20 points and career-high 15 assists
HE SAID IT, part I
“Seth Curry: let’s talk about him tonight,” Kings head coach George Karl said. “Man, he had a highlight game, a highlight show in one game. He was really good. I’m really happy for him; he’s put in a lot of work. I’m sure this is very satisfying to him.”
HE SAID IT, part II
“They shot 49 percent, that’s too high and it’s unacceptable,” interim head coach Earl Watson said. “We’ve been playing way better teams and have held them to less. You have a lot of starters out, a lot of scoring out. That’s more of a reason for the guys who come off the bench, or the guys who are not playing to come into the game and have a defensive presence, because if you were a great offensive weapon, you would be playing.”
– The Suns started their 22nd different lineup with Ronnie Price, Devin Booker, P.J. Tucker, Jon Leuer and Alex Len.
– Chandler missed his 15th game of the season, fifth-most on the team; and eight more than he did all in 2014-15.
– Goodwin, coming a 24-point effort at New Orleans, had played all 80 games before sitting out Monday’s action.
– Tucker received the Majerle Hustle Award and inaugural Steve Nash Award for professionalism with the media.
A season that will once again end without a playoff appearance for a franchise-high sixth straight year will come to a close with a visit from the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday, April 13. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Clippers have won the last two meetings as the home team has won the first three of four games this season.
The most recent matchup on Feb. 22 was one to forget for the Suns, who were dealt their largest margin of defeat, losing 124-84 at Staples Center.
The Clippers led by 19 points after the first quarter, 17 points at halftime, 29 points after three quarters and as many as 43 points late in the fourth quarter before arriving at the final margin of 40 points. The 40-point differential tied for the third-largest loss in Suns franchise history and was their worst since 40 points on Nov. 28, 2012.
J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 22 points, scoring 19 in the first half. Chris Paul (16 points, 14 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (17 points, 11 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles for L.A.
Goodwin scored 20 points to lead the Suns.
Overall, the Suns have won 17 of the last 30 in the series, including 12 of 17 at home.