The Phoenix Suns had every advantage going into tonight's game. Once again they were facing a team that played the night before and had to travel overnight to Phoenix. Once again, the opponent was missing a key player -- in this case, DeMarcus Cousins, who was suspended by the Sacramento Kings for a locker room altercation with a teammate.
Unfortunately, the Suns weren't able to take advantage, as they let the poor-shooting Kings hang around thanks to their rebounding domination. The Kings out-rebounded the Suns 51 to 36. Samuel Dalembert and Carl Landry had 15 and 10, respectively.
"I just thought they dominated the boards and that was the difference in the game," Suns' Coach Alvin Gentry said.
Suns centers Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye noted that the Kings were attacking the glass with three and four players while the Suns were left with only one or two battling in the paint.
The game was back and forth, with the Suns mostly seeming like they were going to go on a run at some point and pull away. Instead, it was the Kings who scored at will in the fourth quarter as they isolated Suns defenders in various mismatches against Donte Greene, Carl Landry and Samuel Dalembert. The Suns defense, a source of pride for its play over the past 15 games, was exposed for 35 points in the final period.
The Kings in the fourth quarter spread the ball around and got 12 points each from Donte Green and Samuel Dalembert and another 11 points combined from Beno Udrih (5) and Carl Landry (6). With young stud Tyreke Evans only taking one shot attempt, Sacramento played with great chemistry and attacked mismatches in the Suns defense.
The inability to get stops late was painful for the Suns and that in and of itself was notable. Both Channing Frye and Steve Nash commented on strange it felt to be unable to get stops which is sign that a bad defensive quarter is no longer the norm for the Suns -- at least that's the hope.
"The truth of the matter is, at the end of the game we couldn't stop them. The negative side is, we couldn't get stops. The positive is, it felt strange. It felt strange -- why aren't we stopping these guys? Are defense has been so good," Steve Nash, who finished with 22 points and 18 assists, said.
On a night when the two of the teams they are chasing for a playoff spot won, this is a game the Suns could ill afford to lose. To get make up ground you have to both beat the teams ahead of you as the Suns did on Friday in Utah but also beat the teams you are supposed to beat.
"It's one of those losses that you are going to look back at and it's going to hurt...Now we got 30 games left and we got to try and find a way to win a ton of them," Gentry acknowledged.
Credit definitely goes to Paul Westphal and his team for responding to a difficult situation with DeMarcus Cousin's suspension.
"This was quite a pulling together of our team. It was great to see," Westphal said.
- "We should have been more prepared mentally. Sometimes it's strange, they're on a back-to-back and it felt like they had fresher legs than we did. Sometimes you feel worse after a back-to-back and a day off. No excuse, that's the way the league is. You've got to be mentally prepared to fight through it," Nash said.
- "You could tell they had good chemistry out there. I don't know if it was because Cousins being back (in Sacramento). They were all in a good mood, sharing the ball, all playing for each other. Landry got down in the first half and they kept pumping him up in the second half to get him going and he did that. It was a good team win for them battling back. We had them down but they kept fighting."
- Vince Carter was asked how he felt about not playing in the fourth quarter, he said, "good" and walked off.
- "This team (the Suns) is always ready to play against every team in the league. It's not like back in my old team where you're getting ready for the big games and all of a sudden the smaller game is coming and you're losing. This team is usually ready for everything. Unfortunately, Sacramento was playing really well," Gortat said.