The wife and I took advantage of one of the on-line sales available and snagged some good lower level seats last week for the Suns game last night. We didn’t get the usual e-tix with this deal however and had to go to will-call to pick them up, a process the man on the phone assured me has usually taken 5 minutes or so.
We got to Arco (screw-em) about when we usually do, 6:30 or so and to our surprise, found that the will-call line stretched for several hundred feet. After ½ hour in line we got our tix and got to our seats in 111M just in time for the introductions.
The announced number of just under 14,000 seemed low, I think perhaps all those last minute sales may have not been completely taken into account. Maybe it was correct, maybe it as just that the crowd was quite animated from the beginning of the game – which always makes it feel fuller.
We were sitting behind the Phx bench and a decent number of PHX fans were in house, but though they were supportive of the Suns, they stayed polite.
The first quarter started well initially but Grant Hill began consistently scorching Cisco and getting right to the basket. PW tried Marcus on him briefly with similar results and then finally Donte. Phx is hard to match up with, they play with a Center, a PG and three small forwards, which give them some size and speed mismatches in the 2-4 positions – and they’re excellent at exploiting those, size over the 2 and 3 guys and speed over the 4 man. The substitutions of Donte and Tyreke showed immediate benefits, we matched up better, shared the ball and hit some shots as the quarter went on.
In any case, the 1st Q went pretty much as Phx would want, a fast paced, fast break 34-30 score in their favor.
It’s hard to figure out with an old guy like Hill whether Donte shut him down somewhat or the energy he had to expend in the 1st quarter mostly guarding Thornton (very well) wore him out a bit. I thought Beno did a good job bothering Nash most of the game and the team did a good team defense job on him, switching when the needed to, getting burned occasionally of course, but hey! Steve Nash, he can make you dizzy trying to follow him.
The 2nd Q started and Phx put the hammer down and stretched the lead as many of the early 1st Q problems roared back, fast breaks, more pick and roll action. The Kings answered right back with a nice run to turn that 10 pt deficit into a 4 pt lead or so and the game went back and forth until the high scoring phx paced game went to the half with them leading by two on a careless TO by Marcus Thornton (out of a timeout- ouch). Cousins played well as a facilitator, making a bunch of great assist passes leading to I think 6 or 7 assists. He needs to finish stronger at the hoop against a team like Phx however, know who you are playing big fella.
The third quarter had some great plays at both ends but was mostly a re-dux of the first quarter, playing Phx’s game, every TO leading to Phx points. Casspi finally got some floor minutes and started a stretch of very good play that would run into the 4th. Though the Kings were down by 8 by the end, it didn’t feel to me like there was any danger of Phx blowing us out. A lot of good players there who can score – but they’re just not quite ‘right’ somehow. The win still felt available.
From the start of the 4th, as soon as Casspi hit the 3 ball to open it up, the crowd got more and more raucous and supportive. There was a lull when the Kings went down by 10 briefly but back to back fast break dunks by JT (who’s FT shooting could have lost this game! WTF?) and Casspi go the crowd and team energized.
The defense showed up. The Kings created, yes created a number of Phx TO’s – all of which they turned into points at the other end – mostly on dunks. Dunks are fun, they get the crowd fired up, the team fired up – give me more please!
Once it was 102-100, it felt like a win all the way home to me. Phx just seemed discouraged, like they didn’t like each other all that much (hello VC!) and the Kings just looked they had decided they would find a way – and make enough plays to win. The crowd sure felt it and didn’t let up for more than a moment or two the last five minutes with a constant roar to the buzzer, standing the last 2 + minutes. Casspi, off his banishment, was a real difference maker on both ends, Tyreke played a well rounded game, Beno was excellent - hell, just a good team game offensively as you can see by those 31 assists.
The crowd seemed determined to enjoy what might be one of the last games for the Kings.
On that note, I think our best chance of keeping the Kings comes down to LA either getting the votes to block the move (doubtful) – or forcing such a high relocation fee (much more likely) that the Maloofs can’t afford to move.
For those of you who misuse the word so horribly: Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Kings’ greatest enemy ended up being Sacramento’s savior?