Heading into Phoenix and resting more of their veterans, we were not sure what to expect from the Sacramento Kings. Even though the Phoenix Suns are a bad team, the Kings had lost eight of their last nine games. However, the young guys are responding much better as more of the veterans sit, specifically the Thin Towers (shout out to Aaron Bruski), Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein. Tonight was a perfect example of that, as the Kings played the Suns to an admittedly ugly game that suddenly turned watchable thanks to Skal’s amazing fourth quarter.
The first three quarters were an unwatchable hex upon the game of basketball which should be forgotten by everyone involved right away. I am just going to say that now. To write about the basketball I saw there would take 10 years off of a life that I am certain has already outlived its shelf-life after 20 years of Kings fandom. So let’s talk about the fourth quarter! Perhaps my favorite part of Skal’s amazing 21 point fourth quarter was how “quietly” he did it. He dominated it for the Kings, make no question about it, but it was not by demanding the ball like many stars do, it was simply by making many of the right plays and hustling. Skal finished with 32 points and thoroughly outplayed Marquese Chriss.
I really think that the Kings are on to something with this Willie and Skal frontcourt (still going to need a lot more to take the bad taste of the Boogie trade out of my mouth, though). Skal has definitely been the brightest spot in the post-Boogie era, though Willie has probably been second. Willie nearly had a 5x5 with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks. Both bigs are pretty raw, but I feel like they are working better and better every day!
Outside of the best frontcourt in the NBA, there was some good and lots of ugly. There were 18 turnovers but it honestly felt like more. Langston Galloway was perhaps the best guard not named Arron Afflalo, and I should not need to elaborate on that sentence anymore. Koufos also had a nice game starting, but playing only 20 minutes. I am hoping he is the big man off the bench very soon, as I want to see Skal and Willie work together some more. Coming off what may have been his best game as a King, Buddy Hield struggled, but as a rookie I am not too worried about that. He’s certainly got a lot to work on, but he has also shown many signs of good-to-great play. Tyreke Evans played 14 minutes, and that’s about as exciting as I can make that stint sound.
From the Suns side, TJ Warren put on a show with 24 points on 12-16 shooting, but every other Sun who shot more than a couple of shots could not make a basket. The Suns starting backcourt of Tyler Ullis and Devin Booker combined to shoot a staggering 12-44 from the field. The Kings certainly benefited greatly from this impressively awful shooting night from every Sun but Warren.
The Kings will need to their guards to show up on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Russell Westbrook is showing no signs of slowing down. That frontcourt should also be a good test for Skal and Willie. The game tips off at lunchtime, so for all you late-risers, be sure to set your alarm!
For the Suns’ side of things, be sure to check out Bright Side of the Sun.