PHOENIX — Losing at home to the Sacramento Kings wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
If certain interpretations of the Mayan calendar are on the money, the end of the world will show up on Friday.
But it was only Monday night and the Phoenix Suns were busy making sure they avoided losing to the second-worst team (by record) in the NBA’s Western Conference.
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The Suns, who entered this event at No. 13 on the conference charts, really weren’t all that busy until they uncorked a 58-point second half. They certainly were due, having made only 26 percent of their shots in the first quarter and falling behind by 19 points in the second.
They rallied a bit to trail, 54-43, at intermission and eventually completed a 30-point swing with a 101-90 triumph in front of 13,068 flummoxed patrons at U.S. Airways Center.
For context, let’s go to Suns coach Alvin Gentry.
“Well, that was interesting, wasn’t it?” Gentry said a few minutes after his team extended its season-long winning streak to a modest three and bumped the overall record to 10-15.
Yeah, interesting describes it.
Working without their second- and-third-leading scorers (Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, respectively) and pulling a shift for the second night in a row, the Kings were crusty enough to inspire vigorous home-team booing at 3:41 of the second quarter.
Jimmer Fredette, who scored a career-high 22 points, bagged 12 of those while serving as the major problem of the second stanza.
By the way, the Suns were in a 50-33 hole at the moment of booing but still managed to gather sufficient turnaround momentum with point guard Goran Dragic struggling to make plays.
“The basket looked about this big,” Dragic, using his thumb and index finger to make a circle roughly the diameter of a quarter, said.
Dragic did make a sensational, spinning lay-up in the second half but finished only 3 of 11 from the field for eight points. The other Phoenix starters, however, were pretty salty.
Shannon Brown, for example, erupted for 14 points in the third quarter (equaling Sacramento’s output) and finished with 20 on 10-of-13 marksmanship from the floor.
“Personally, I just want to continue to take good shots,” Brown said. “My teammates and coaches did a great job of running plays and trying to give me the ball in positions where I could make something happen and be successful.”
Brown’s 3-pointer from the left corner at 6:17 of the third gave Dragic one of his seven dimes and provided the Suns with a 59-58 lead. At that moment, the Phoenix run was 26-6.
Jared Dudley, still looking cozy at small forward, was 4 of 8 from 3-point range and had 20 points. Center Marcin Gortat had 14 points, 13 rebounds and — possibly channeling the energy of front-row guest Bill Russell — recorded six blocks. Several rejections came at the expense of Kings post man DeMarcus Cousins, who mustered enough back-to-back night energy to provide his team with nine points (he made 1 of 10 shots from the field).
But the star of, well, co-stars was power forward Luis Scola, who produced 14 points and a career-high 10 assists.
OK, so if the Suns take down the visiting Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, they’ll equal the longest winning streak they were able to gather last season.
Unfortunately, this current run of prosperity could be driving Gentry cuckoo. The disturbing habit of seemingly attempting to rope-a-dope their way to victory should not be confused with a lack of pre-game focus.
“We’re in no position to overlook anyone,” Gentry said just in case someone thought the (now) 7-17 Kings were taken for granted. “I look on the right side (of the record ledger) and we have 15 losses.
“It didn’t have anything to do with being overconfident.”
When asked for an explanation, Dragic didn’t have much insight to offer, either.
“(We) weren’t on the same page,” he said in reference to a first half that could have been mistaken for independent study. “After that, we just turned on the energy and played more focused.”
And the Kings weren’t exactly taking the sport to a higher plane.
“We were lucky to be only down 11,” Dudley said of the half-time predicament, “then third quarter, we go on a nice little run, picked up the intensity and got stops, stopped turning the ball over so much and finally hit some shots for everybody.”
Heck, picking up the intensity seems pretty simple.
But for the sake of Gentry — who resorts to in-game juggling while waiting to see which players are bringing it on a given night — they might consider not dropping it in the first place.