With a four-game winning streak, the Phoenix Suns paced themselves to first place in the Western Conference even without two usual starters, point guard Chris Paul and forward Cameron Johnson.
The Suns appeared to find a rhythm and reach a place they were at a year ago, dominating teams with their cohesion. It was a big reason why Phoenix ranked No. 2 in the NBA in scoring margin (plus-6.9) entering Monday’s game against the Sacramento Kings and surged of late.
Phoenix had a big challenge against the Kings, who ranked second in the NBA in points per game (119.1) entering Monday’s game and were off to their best start (10-8, good for sixth in the Western Conference) since the 2018-19 season. In the end, the Suns met that challenge in their 122-117 win over the Kings at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento Monday night.
Phoenix is now on a five-game winning streak, its longest of the season, and snapped a six-game home winning streak for the Kings.
The Suns built their largest lead to 10 points with 3:50 left in the third quarter, part of a dominant period in which they held Sacramento to 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting. But Sacramento, which is hunting for its first playoff appearance in 16 seasons, did not go away.
The Kings went on a 10-0 run from 8:46 left in the game to the 6:14 mark, when their backup guard, Malik Monk, hit two free throws. Monk, who signed with Sacramento this offseason after one season with the Los Angeles Lakers, led the Kings in the game with 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting with eight assists.
Even with the Kings in control, the Suns did not fold. They went on a 10-2 run of their own, capped off by a 3-pointer from backup guard Damion Lee to give them a 111-106 lead with 4:06 left.
That was effectively the punch Phoenix needed to close the game, as it went on a 9-4 run to build a 120-110 lead that was met by a 7-0 spurt for the Kings to cut its lead to three with 35.4 seconds left. Suns starting forward Mikal Bridges missed a 3-pointer but their other starting forward, Torrey Craig, had a key offensive rebound in which he kept his balance while standing near the out-of-bounds line under the basket. He passed the ball to Bridges, who swung it to Booker, who made two free throws to seal the game with two free throws with 6.8 seconds left.
Booker had a season-high 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, including 16-of-22 makes from inside the 3-point line, with eight rebounds and four assists. He also tied a career-high with six steals.
Suns starting center Deandre Ayton (17 points), Bridges (13 points), and Craig (11 points) were also in double figures for the Suns’ starters. Lee had 15 points off the bench and was second on Phoenix’s team as a plus-9 for the game.
Here is more on how the game unfolded.
Reaction from Kevin O’Connor
Incredible the Suns are so good without CP3, Johnson, or Crowder. Devin Booker is playing the best basketball of his life, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges are better too, tons of other guys playing with an edge. Major bubble/Finals run energy in Phoenix.
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 29, 2022
The Suns had to hold off a rally attempt from Sacramento, which took a 102-101 lead with 6:32 left in the fourth quarter after a layup from Monk. Monk hit two free throws to give the Kings a 104-101 advantage with 6:14 to go.
Then, the Suns responded with a 10-2 run over the next 2:08 to take a 111-106 lead. Lee hit a clutch 3-pointer on an assist from Ayton that appeared to give Phoenix the boost it needed.
But Sacramento, like before, did not go away. The Suns extended their lead to 120-110 with 1:14 to go after a steal from Booker and a 3-pointer from Bridges, but the Kings came back with a 7-0 run to cut Phoenix’s advantage to 120-117 with 35.2 seconds left.
On the Suns’ final offensive possession, Bridges missed a 3-pointer but Craig had a huge offensive rebound while he nearly fell out of bounds. He passed the ball to Bridges, who swung it to Booker, who made two free throws to seal the game for the Suns with 6.8 seconds left.
Phoenix shot 10-of-19 in the fourth quarter and finished the game making 50 of 94 shots (53.2 percent). The Suns shot 10-of-32 (31.3 percent) from 3-point range and assisted 26 of their shots.
The Kings made 11 of 21 shots (52.3 percent) in the fourth quarter. Monk led Sacramento with 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting with eight assists. Sabonis nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, but he also had five turnovers. Huerter had 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting – he missed all five of his 3-point attempts – and Fox and starting forward Keegan Murray each had 11 points for the Kings.
The Suns’ win extended their winning streak to five games, and Sacramento’s six-game home winning streak was snapped.
The Suns began to pull away from the Kings in the third quarter, winning it 28-20 and holding their opponent to 7-of-22 shooting (31.8 percent) in the period.
Phoenix did not shoot the ball extremely well (11-of-24) but did enough to extend its lead multiple times in the quarter.
The Suns went on a 7-0 run over the first 1:20 of the period, which included a hook shot from Ayton, tip-in from Bridges and a 3-pointer from Craig. Sacramento forward Keegan Murray scored his team’s first points of the half with 9:49 left in the period and the Suns responded with four straight points to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 76-66, with 7:36 left in the quarter.
The Kings went on a 10-2 run over the next 2:38 to cut Phoenix’s lead to two, but the Suns responded with an 8-1 run to take an 87-77 lead with 3:50 to go in the period.
Sacramento fought back again with a 7-1 run, but Booker hit two free throws and Suns backup guard Damion Lee hit a 3-pointer to give Phoenix a 91-84 lead at the end of the period.
Booker had 15 points in the quarter and was 14-of-18 from inside the arc through three periods. The Suns’ second-leading scorer was Ayton, who had four points in the quarter on 2-of-3 shooting and had 15 points and seven rebounds through three periods.
Payne struggled with his shot (2-of-9 shooting) through three quarters but had seven assists to lead the Suns. Booker (plus-10), Ayton (plus-7), Washington Jr. (plus-7), Lee, (plus-7), and backup shooting guard Landry Shamet (plus-4) were Phoenix’s players with a positive plus/minus through three periods.
The Suns held Sabonis to just two points and two assists in the third quarter. Monk did not have a point and Kings backup guard Terence Davis led his team in the period with six points.
Sacramento had a whopping 38 points in the second quarter while shooting incredibly from the field (16-of-21, 76 percent).
The Kings tied the game at 37 with an 11-6 run over the first 3:09 of the period, capped off by a mid-range shot from Fox. Fox had eight points at halftime on 3-of-7 shooting.
The teams traded baskets relatively until 4:51 left in the quarter, when the Suns momentarily broke away with a four-point lead at 51-47. Then, the Kings tied the game at 53 and closed the half with a 64-61 advantage before Booker hit a mid-range shot to cut the deficit to 64-61 at halftime.
Monk, who entered Monday’s game fourth on Sacramento’s team while averaging 13.4 points per game, had 13 points in the quarter and 17 points at halftime on 8-of-9 shooting. He also had all five of his assists in the first half in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Phoenix shot 15-of-27 from the field in the second quarter (1-of-5 from 3-point range). Booker shot 5-of-7 in the quarter and led all scorers with 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, two assists and a steal. However, he also had four turnovers.
Ayton made all three of his shots in the second quarter and made a free throw, giving him 11 points at halftime on 5-of-5 shooting. Outside of Booker and Ayton, Suns starting point guard Cameron Payne and starting forwards Mikal Bridges and Torrey Craig shot a combined 8-of-22 from the field.
Suns backup guard Duane Washington Jr. contributed well for the team with five points on 2-of-3 shooting (1-of-2 from 3-point range) in the first half in seven minutes played.
Outside of Monk, Sabonis made all three of his shots in the second quarter and had 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting. He also had seven assists.
Huerter had nine points at halftime on 4-of-6 shooting and Fox had eight points on 3-of-7 shooting with four assists.
Phoenix led 31-26 after the first quarter, as it shot 14-of-24 from the field (3-of-10 from 3-point range). Meanwhile, Sacramento shot 12-of-24 from the floor (1-of-4 from 3-point range).
Suns guard Devin Booker led his team with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He also had five rebounds and two assists.
Phoenix fell into a 15-9 deficit after Sacramento went on a 10-2 run from 10:10 left in the first quarter to the 7:14 mark. Then, it was all Suns for the most part.
Ayton hit a 16-foot jumper before Craig and Booker made shots around the rim. Then, Craig tied the game with a shot inside the paint.
Sacramento scored the next seven points but the Suns went on a 14-2 run over the last 2:56 of the period to take a five-point lead. Booker had six of those points to lead the way.
Huerter led the Kings in the period with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting.