Sacramento's offense was clicking all night long, producing 27 assists on 40 made baskets and some of the best ball-movement the Kings have had all season. DeMarcus Cousins led the way with 24 points and 10 rebounds on 11-19 shooting, but unlike Tuesday night against the lowly Sixers, he had some help; seven Kings finished in double figures, including Rudy Gay and Ray McCallum who each had 14 points and five assists.
It was a bad loss for Phoenix, who now stand at 38-34 and are three games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference. Markieff Morris had 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists to lead the Suns, while twin brother Marcus had 19 points. Eric Bledsoe had 19 points and five assists, while Alex Len had nine rebounds and four blocks but couldn't hit a shot when he wasn't a comfortable three feet deep in the post.
The Suns made a run midway through the fourth quarter, cutting the Kings lead to 92-87 after six straight points by Marcus Morris with 4:50 left. The Kings countered with back-to-back threes by Ben McLemore, recapturing a 98-89 lead that was never in danger from that point on. Sacramento's ballhandling deteriorated in the closing minutes, producing five turnovers in the final five minutes, but their defense held off every Phoenix run.
After a back-and-forth first quarter where the lead was exchanged 15 times, the Kings took the lead in the final minutes and never trailed the rest of the contest. The first half was especially impressive for Nik Stauskas, who continued his strong run to end the season—he had 10 of his eventual 13 points in the half that included one three and a fancy spin lay-up in transition. Stauskas' development has produced at the right time for Sacramento, especially since McLemore (12 points on 5-9 shooting) has quieted down.
Sacramento will now head to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Friday for another chance to play spoiler for a playoff hopeful squad—New Orleans has lost three straight, and are currently 3 ½ games behind Oklahoma City for the 8th spot in the West.
For the rival's perspective, check out Bright Side Of The Sun.