Suns 101, Kings 90

The Phoenix Suns couldn’t seem to make a shot from anywhere,
struggled defensively and gave up too many offensive rebounds while
falling behind by 19 points in the first half.

No problem. Big comebacks are their specialty.

Shannon Brown scored 14 of his 22 points in third quarter to
bring Phoenix back, Jared Dudley had 20 points and the Suns added
to their list of comebacks by beating the Sacramento Kings 101-90
Monday night.

”Well, that was interesting,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.
”We have to play hard for 48 minutes and we did not do that
tonight. We played a great second half, but we don’t want to have
that kind of start.”

In its previous game, Phoenix scored 34 points in the first
quarter and never looked back to beat Memphis.

The Suns were back to their fall-behind-big ways against
Sacramento, out of sorts at both ends in the first half, drawing
boos from the home crowd and plenty of stomping along the sideline
by Gentry.

Phoenix looked like a different team in the second half, working
the ball around for open shots on offense, playing better defense
and getting to the glass better.

Behind Brown, the Suns outscored Sacramento 31-14 in the third
quarter and had 58 points in the second half to earn their first
three-game winning streak of the season.

Marcin Gortat had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Luis Scola gave the Suns his usual hustle while scoring 14 points
and dishing out a career-high 10 assists. Dudley hit a couple of
big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter when the Kings tried to
rally.

The Suns are still five games under .500 at 10-15, but six of
those wins have been comebacks of 10 or more points, including
three of at least 19 points.

”If we get down 35-40, I don’t know, but in the NBA 10 to 15
points is not big, especially early on,” Dudley said. ”If it’s
late in the fourth, that’s something different, but guys went out
there and played hard.”

Coming off a lopsided loss the night before, the Kings were the
team that looked fresh, racing out to a 52-33 lead as Jimmer
Fredette scored 12 of his 22 points in the second quarter.

Then things fell apart.

The shots that were falling in the first half didn’t go down and
the Kings had no defensive answer when the Suns hit the gas in the
third quarter, leading to their fourth straight loss.

Aaron Brooks added 12 points for Sacramento, which had a 51-38
rebounding advantage, including 18 on the offensive glass.

”I thought this was a night to steal one on the road after a
game last night,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. ”I thought they
did everything the right way up until things started to go haywire
in the second half.”

Sacramento and Phoenix, the two worst teams in the Pacific
Division, met heading in opposite directions.

Just a week ago, the Suns were reeling, on a seven-game losing
streak that included a 40-point blowout to struggling Detroit on
Nov. 28, the third-worst loss in franchise history.

Phoenix started its current five-game homestand with a loss to
Orlando, but followed with wins over Memphis and Utah, two teams in
the upper half of the Western Conference.

The Kings appeared to be putting things together with a modest
three-game winning streak, only to play poorly at both ends during
a four-game losing streak. Sacramento was blown out 122-97 by
Denver at home Sunday night and has struggled on the road all
season, winning 1 of 10 games before facing the Suns.

The Kings missed nine of their first 12 shots before getting
into groove with a 10-0 run.

After that, it was the Suns who looked worn down.

Phoenix missed all seven of its 3-pointers in the first quarter
and wasn’t much better from anywhere else, unable to get even
layups and tip-ins to go down. The Suns failed to hit a field goal
over the final 5:19 of the first quarter and continued to struggle
in the second, falling behind by 19.

Phoenix managed to hit a couple of shots late, but still trailed
54-43 at halftime – the 20th time in 25 games this season the Suns
have trailed by double digits.

Hitting the shots that weren’t falling early, Phoenix went on an
18-4 run midway through the third quarter, going up 61-58 after
Brown hit three straight shots, including a 3-pointer as he fell
into Sacramento’s bench.

”You work so hard in the first half to establish a lead then
you let it go in three minutes,” Brooks said. ”It’s kind of
disheartening.”

The Suns didn’t let up, hitting 13 of 21 shots in the third
quarter and playing better defense, holding the Kings scoreless for
four minutes to turn an 11-point deficit into a six-point lead.

Phoenix extended the lead to 85-75 on a 3-pointer by Michael
Beasley from the corner midway through the fourth quarter, but the
Kings clawed back within three. The Sun sealed their latest
comeback after that, going up 97-84 on consecutive 3-pointers by
Dudley and a driving layup by Brown.

NOTES: Hall of Fame center Bill Russell attended the game. …
Phoenix has won 12 of its past 14 games against Sacramento at home.
… Sacramento played without G Tyreke Evans, who left with sore
knee after the first quarter against Denver Sunday night.