By Charlie O. Mallonee
Sacramento – Here are words you have not heard often this season – the Sacramento Kings waltzed their way to a win on Saturday afternoon destroying the Phoenix Suns 142-119.
The win ended a 3-game losing streak for the Kings. It was the eighth consecutive loss for the Suns (12-24) who have to play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
The Kings (13-20) led by as many as 17 points in the first half but the Suns would not go down for the count. Phoenix outscored the Kings 35-28 in the second quarter and looked like they were ready to make a game of it.
At the half, the Kings led the Suns 59-53.
Sacramento came out in the third quarter looking like a team that was ready to put away their opponent. The Suns kept fighting and took the lead with 8:16 to go in the period. The Kings took the lead back off a Rudy Gay dunk with an assist from Casspi and they never looked back.
By the end of the third quarter, the Kings led the Suns 103-87 and every one in the building knew the fourth quarter would be a formality.
The Kings kept the hammer down in the fourth quarter outscoring the Suns 39-32. There was even a Willie Cauley-Stein sighting late in the game. Cauley-Stein played for the first time in almost a month due to a dislocated finger. The big rookie scored the first time he had the ball in his hands.
On Saturday, the Kings did what they should have done to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. They beat an inferior team and protected their home court. Sacramento is now 9-9 at home this season.
George Karl pointed to the play of Darren Collison as one of the main reasons the Kings beat the Suns. Collison came of the bench and scored 21 points hitting on 7-of-10 shooting attempts (2-for-4 3-pointers). He dished out six assists and went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in his 28 minutes of playing time.
DeMarcus Cousins had a positive outing scoring 32 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The big man shot 11-for-15 from the floor and 9-for-11 from the free throw line. Cousins spent a great deal of time in the paint and it payed off for the Kings as the Suns could not stop him.
Rajon Rondo posted another double-double game. He scored 15 points and distributed 15 assists in just 30 minutes on the floor. Rondo continues to amaze with his rebounding ability. He had six rebounds in the game with many coming at crucial moments for the Kings.
Marco Belinelli followed up his 28-point performance against the Sixers with 19 points versus the Suns. Belinelli shot 7-for-11 from the floor (2-for-5 long range) and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the foul line.
Omri Casspi had another solid game as a starter for Sacramento. He put up 13 points and hauled in seven rebounds in his 29 minutes on the floor. It is hard to see Casspi not staying in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.
As a team, the Kings shot 60.9-percent from the field. They hit on 9-of-23 3-point attempts (39.1-percent). Sacramento outscored the Suns 60-32 in the paint.
Sacramento out-rebounded Phoenix 46-25. The Kings scored 14 second chance points to just nine for the Suns.
The Kings also took good care of the basketball. They turned the ball over 15 times while recording 30 assists for the desired 2-to-1 ratio.
No statistic of the game may be more important than the eighth consecutive loss for the Suns. If the Suns lose to the Lakers on Sunday, it is very conceivable that Jeff Hornacek will not be the Phoenix coach on Monday. The Suns have already replaced two of their assistant coaches.
Brandon Knight led the Suns scoring attack with 23 points. Rookie Devin Booker had an impressive game putting up 21 points for Phoenix.
The Suns had six players score in double figures.
Phoenix just could not match the Kings play in the paint and it cost them the game.
The win over the Suns gave Kings head coach George Karl his 1115th NBA regular season victory. That ties him for fifth all-time with Phil Jackson.
When asked how it felt to tie Jackson on the all-time wins list Karl said, “Its a good, fun thing with my family. My son, my daughter, my son-in-law and my staff, we joke about it all the time. As I said to you before, he’s a great coach, he’s maybe the best. I don’t know what our record is against him, but I’m pretty sure it not very good. I know its not very good in the playoffs, but it might be decent in the regular season.”
What they said after the game
“One thing I just said after the game was we had two really good days of practice,” said Karl. “The effort in the second half, DC (Darren Collison) was incredible. It was effort. I’m not sure it was pretty. I’m not sure it was conceptually excellent. It was just effort. I’m just an old school guy that believes that effort magnifies talent.”
‘Oh it’s huge, it’s huge,” said Darren Collison on the victory. “We were embarrassed by the losses we had previously. We were able to get a win. It always feels good to get a win especially when you (have to) go on the road.”
Rajon Rondo made it clear that only the press is making his return to Dallas a big deal. He said it is just another road game.
He’s been coaching a long, long time,” said Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek about George Karl. “I played against him so he’s been there a long time. He’s always done a great job with his teams. They’ve always been high-scoring, high-flying teams and with the talent they have on the this team, they got them playing that way tonight. He’s one of those great coaches of all time with the amount of wins he’s racked up.”
The Kings will face the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Monday and the Mavericks in Dallas on Tuesday.
The Suns play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday.