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Kings 88, Suns 96: Another Collapse on the Road

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After a very good first half, the Kings were outscored in both the 3rd and the 4th quarters, as Steve Nash and the Suns won their 3rd game in a row and the Kings lost their 3rd in a row.

Nash finished with 19 points and 7 assists, doing most of his damage as a scorer. Four other Suns players finished in double digits as well: Marcin Gortat had 14 points and 17 rebounds, Jared Dudley had 14 points, Channing Frye had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Shannon Brown scored 13 points off the bench.

Sacramento was led in scoring by Marcus Thornton's 21 points, 13 of which came in the first quarter. Tyreke Evans also had a solid game with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. DeMarcus Cousins was very inefficient from the floor, shooting just 7-20, but did finish with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

The Suns made their run starting in the 3rd quarter, where they took back the lead before a Travis Outlaw putback gave Sacramento a one point lead heading into the final quarter. The momentum kept up for Phoenix in the 4th however, as they started off the quarter with a 15-3 run over the first 5 minutes. The Kings had done a good job all night at preventing the Suns from taking and making threes, but Phoenix got open in the 4th and hit 4 of their 5 threes in the quarter. Sacramento wasn't able to recover from the initial Phoenix run, and the game was lost.

The Kings finished the game shooting just 38.5% from the floor to Phoenix's 45.5%. The starters were particularly bad from the field. Tyreke Evans' 8-18 performance was the best among them. As mentioned before, DeMarcus was just 7-20, settling for way too many jumpers. Marcus Thornton started out hot, but finished just 9-23. Isaiah Thomas had his worst game as a starter, scoring just 8 points on 13 shots. Donté Greene, who surprisingly got the start at PF, was just 3-8.

Speaking of Donté getting the start, I thought it was a peculiar strategy by Keith Smart. I'm not a fan of switching up the starting lineup because of a matchup. The Kings didn't opt to switch their starting lineup against the Miami Heat, so why would they choose to do so against the Suns? The reason seemed to be to contain ... Channing Frye. Frye had killed the Kings from the perimeter in their last matchup, scoring 17 points on 12 shots including 5 threes. So this time, Smart decided to put Greene on him, and it kind of worked. The Suns decided to see Frye on Greene as a mismatch and had Frye post-up early and often. But just because it's a size mismatch, that doesn't magically make Frye a good low-post player, and Frye struggled early, finishing just 3-12 from the field.

The Kings also made a change in strategy on Steve Nash, trying to take away his passing options and making him more of a scorer. Well Nash can do that too, and scored a very efficient 19 points. It wasn't Nash that particularly killed the Kings though, it was the lack of offensive cohesion by Sacramento and a poor rotation pattern by Keith Smart.

Smart seems to have problems integrating his starters and his bench. It's almost as if the Kings have two different teams, and it's either all starters or all bench out there. I was particularly disappointed with how long he left the lineup in the game in the 4th quarter that wasn't scoring at all. Jason Thompson's short hook at the 6:01 mark was just the 2nd basket of the entire quarter for Sacramento, while Phoenix had already scored 5, including back-to-back three pointers by Shannon Brown and another by Jared Dudley.

It also didn't help that nobody on the bench really stepped up offensively, particularly with our starters struggling so much. Jason Thompson was the leading bench scorer with 7 points, while the rest of the bench combined for 11 points between 5 players. Phoenix's bench meanwhile had 30 points, and Grant Hill barely missed joining the rest of the Suns starters in double-figures with 8 points. It was a very balanced effort for Phoenix, something that Sacramento rarely has.

Phoenix is not a defensive powerhouse, and to score just 88 points and shoot sub-40% against them is giving them the ball game. Sacramento needs to learn to be more efficient in their shot selection, and not make things more difficult than they need to be. A bad habit the Kings seem to fall into is that they'll run the offense well, and then simply miss the shot. But instead of continuing to run the offense well and get good shots, they'll try to force something even more difficult, and that leads to a domino effect of poor shooting as they continue to struggle.

The Kings will look to bounce back tomorrow in Denver, a team they have struggled mightily against so far this year. It will also be the 4th game in 5 nights for the Kings before they head back home for a nine game homestand that couldn't come soon enough.

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