Goodwin, Suns finish on high note
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A season-ending victory proved meaningless for the Phoenix Suns, who will be remembered for having one of the best records in NBA history that wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs.
Archie Goodwin scored 12 of his career-high 29 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns defeated the Sacramento Kings 104-99 Wednesday night in the season finale for both teams.
The Suns outscored the Kings 33-25 in the fourth quarter to snap a three-game losing streak.
It was a disappointing season for the Suns (48-34), who missed the playoffs despite a dramatic turnaround under rookie coach Jeff Hornacek after winning 25 games a year ago. Only the Suns and Golden State (2007-08) have won 48 games and failed to make the playoffs since the NBA went to the 16-team playoff format.
After winning nine of 11 and moving into seventh last week in the Western Conference, the Suns dropped three straight games in a four-night span. The Memphis Grizzlies clinched the last available playoff berth Monday night in Phoenix, eliminating the Suns with a 97-91 victory.
"That’s the tough part about it. Maybe we go down as one of the best non-playoff teams ever," Hornacek said. "They can hang their hat on that."
Goodwin, a rookie guard with little playing time this season, made a jumper to put the Suns ahead for good with 3:49 left in the game. He was solid all game, hitting all four shots in the fourth quarter and finishing 11 of 13 overall.
"It was good. I fed off my teammates," said Goodwin, who averaged 3.7 points in 52 games. "They put me in great positions for me to score. I got a couple of good steals, couple of offensive rebounds, so everything was just going my way tonight."
Marcus Morris had 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for the Suns. Twin Markieff Morris scored 15 points and Gerald Green 12.
Phoenix played without guard Goran Dragic (sore left ankle), who led the Suns in scoring and assists. That led to the expanded playing time for Goodwin, whose previous best was 16 points against the Kings.
"It’s very disappointing, that was our goal all season, making the playoffs," Goodwin said. "To fall that short, it really hurts."
Ben McLemore had 31 points and five assists, both career highs, for the Kings, who lost for the sixth time in seven games while playing starters Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas limited minutes. Travis Outlaw had 15 points and Ray McCallum 13.
"The one thing that I’m most proud about is that in February he (McLemore) hit a wall, physically and mentally," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "He could have stayed down and hung his head and felt sorry for himself. He’s a fighter. I thought the way he played these last two months has been phenomenal."
A rookie guard, McClemore struggled to find his shot all season and entered the game shooting 37 percent. Against the Suns, he was aggressive all game, hitting 9 of 20 shots and 10 of 15 free throws. He also had three 3s and added five rebounds.
Sacramento was without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins.
He was called for a technical foul in Sunday’s victory over Minnesota and drew an automatic one-game suspension for getting his 16th technical foul of the season.
It was another lackluster season for the Kings (28-53), who matched their win total from last year and failed to make the playoffs for an eighth straight season.
Goodwin converted on three-point play to give the Suns a 92-87 lead midway through the fourth quarter. After the Kings tied the score, Goodwin made a layup and a 3, putting Phoenix ahead 99-94.
The Suns had a great season and I think Coach Hornacek should be in the coach of the year conversation," Malone said. "He did a phenomenal job. No one gave that team a chance and they played the whole season right up to their last game in the playoff race."
The Kings shared the ball and shot 50 percent in the third quarter to take a 74-71 lead into the fourth.
McLemore surpassed his previous career-high of 18 points when he hit a 3 at the 10-minute mark in the third quarter.
Channing Frye became the first Suns player to start all 82 regular-season games since Amar’e Stoudemire did it in 2009-10.