Suns 98, Kings 84
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)
No longer are the Phoenix Suns a fast-paced team that wins games solely with its run-and-gun style.
They can play a little defense now, too.
The Suns were effective in slowing down Sacramento, and Jared Dudley had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, which never trailed in defeating the Kings 98-84 on Saturday night.
The victory was the fourth in five games for the Suns, who have won their last three on the road. Phoenix took a double-digit lead in the second quarter and maintained a comfortable margin for the remainder of the game.
Phoenix shot 50 percent and hit eight 3-pointers, which are numbers that seem typical of Suns teams in the past. What wasn't typical in previous seasons was holding a team to 35 percent shooting and blocking 11 shots, including four by center Marcin Gotat and three by reserve forward Markieff Morris.
''We did a good job of keeping a man in front of them and made the Kings take bad shots,'' Dudley said. ''We've been playing a lot better lately, especially on the road.''
One emphasis entering the game was controlling Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who leads Sacramento in both scoring and assists. That job was handed to Grant Hill, the oldest player on the court at age 39, and a veteran of 17 NBA seasons. Hill made it difficult on the Kings' explosive guard, who shot 1 of 9 and finished with four points and five assists.
''He's a great player,'' Hill said. ''I tried to use my size and length against him, and make him take tough shots. I'm sure the next time we play them it might be different.''
Morris had 18 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Channing Frye had 17 points and Gortat had 15 points and seven rebounds.
DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and nine rebounds, and Marcus Thornton made four 3-pointers and had 21 points for the Kings.
Sacramento, which had won four of its previous five games, hardly resembled the team that two nights earlier defeated the Western Division-leading Oklahoma City Thunder 106-101.
''We were going up against a team that was pretty solid and highly trained to guard,'' Kings coach Keith Smart said. ''I thought Grant Hill did a great job of trying to create space and keep us out of the paint. We couldn't finish some plays in the paint.''
The Suns made three 3-pointers over a three-minute span, and the final one by Michael Redd put them ahead 86-69 midway through the fourth quarter.
Suns point guard Steve Nash, who turned 38 earlier this week, took a shot in the mouth on the final possession of the first quarter and spent much of the second quarter getting four stitches to sew up a wound in his lower lip.
The sensitive lip didn't slow down Nash. He shot sparingly all game and scored four points, but handed out 15 assists in 29 minutes.
''He can dominate a game and not have a basket,'' Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. ''He came back in the third quarter and helped us get separation. We never let them back in the game.''
Phoenix controlled the tempo in the third quarter, scoring inside frequently and making the cold-shooting Kings take contested shots. Gortat scored six points and the Suns shot 61 percent in outscoring the Kings 22-16 and taking a 75-60 lead into the final quarter.
''Our offense was kind of stagnant. We broke down defensively on some plays and we didn't get the stops when they were needed,'' Kings reserve forward Chuck Hayes said. ''But you've got to give the Suns credit. They had a great game. They moved the ball very well. They know how they want to play and they do it.''
With Nash leading the way with his pinpoint passing, the Suns scored numerous baskets in transition in the third quarter when the Kings committed six turnovers. Nash was scoreless until tossing in a short floater with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Dudley scored 13 points and Frye had 10 to help give the Suns a 53-44 halftime lead. Both Thornton and Cousins had 11 points for Sacramento, which shot 38 percent but committed only three turnovers.
With the injured Nash in the locker room getting stitches and missing the entire second quarter, the Suns were still able to maintain its lead. The Suns' much-maligned bench combined for 12 points in the quarter when Phoenix outscored the Kings 22-20.
Notes: The Kings won't play another home again until Feb. 28. On Tuesday, they start a six-game road trip, playing exclusively Eastern Conference teams, followed by the All-Star break. ... Nash had six assists in the game's first eight minutes, helping the Suns take a 31-24 lead after one quarter. ... Cousins had 11 points in the opening quarter, but picked up three quick fouls in the second period and only played two minutes.