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Kings stop Suns for second time in two days

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- For Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, it felt like a case of deja vu going in the wrong direction.

The Kings, who rallied from a late seven-point deficit and scored the final 10 points to beat the Phoenix Suns in Sacramento on Tuesday, saw their 20-point, fourth-quarter lead shaved to six in the final 75 seconds in Wednesday's rematch at US Airways Arena.

Sacramento didn't cave, though, and Thomas' 23 points off the bench led the Kings to a 113-106 win and a back-to-back sweep of the Suns.

"If felt like it was last night, and they were doing it to us," said Thomas, who hit six of seven free throws as part of a 32-for-38 effort by the Kings at the line. "We just kept our composure, made our free throws and got some stops on defense."

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins collected his second double-double in as many nights with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Jason Thompson had six points of his 10 points during an 11-0 run early in the third quarter as the Kings, who won two of their first nine games, doubled that total in 24 hours.

"It started with our third-quarter defense," Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. "We allowed only 12 points in the third quarter -- which was great since we allowed 44 in the fourth. We bought ourselves a little bit of time."

Guard Goran Dragic had a season-high 31 points for the Suns, who played a second straight game without guard Eric Bledsoe, their leading scorer. Bledsoe, who averages 20.7 points, sat out with a bruised left shin. The Suns collected a season-high 15 3-pointers, but they weren't nearly as good inside the arc (23-for-53) and they struggled in the paint on both ends against the bigger Kings.

The Suns (5-6) lost their fourth straight game and fell under .500 for the first time this season. For the first time in 11 games, Phoenix never led in the fourth quarter.

"Tonight was the first night that we probably didn't have the effort," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We were a step slow going for balls and not tough enough. We let them do what they wanted. When we went with the small group, at least they tried to fight."

Phoenix guard Gerald Green made six 3-pointers and finished with 23 points, but he didn't score after hitting a 3-pointer 38 seconds into the third period. After that basket, the Kings went on their game-turning run.

"They put (forward Luc Richard) Mbah a Moute on me, and he is a pretty good defender, but I wasn't as aggressive as I should have been," Green said. "I saw the game changing, and I didn't want to just take wild and crazy shots.

"It's still early. It's not like it's March or February. We are still trying to figure things out. We've lost four games in a row, and we can easily win four games in a row."

The Kings (4-7) took their biggest lead at 88-68 on a layup by guard Jimmer Fredette with 7:54 left. The Suns rallied with a 20-7 run and moved within 95-88 on forward Marcus Morris' 3-pointer with 3:09 left to play. Dragic cut the lead to 102-96 on a layup with 1:15 left, but he fouled Sacramento guard Greivis Vasquez on a 3-point shot with the shot clock winding down on the next possession.

Vasquez hit all three free throws, and the Kings hit 11 straight down the stretch to ice the game.

"With both teams on a back-to-back, the team that came out with the most energy and effort was going with win," said Cousins, who injured his left shoulder while collecting 27 points and 12 rebounds against Phoenix on Tuesday and said it bothered him during the rematch. "We gave up a lot in the fourth quarter, but we stayed poised and composed and finished it out strong."

NOTES: Suns G Eric Bledsoe said his left shin contusion was improved but not enough to play Wednesday. He hopes to play Friday in Charlotte when the Suns open a three-game road trip against the Bobcats. The Suns played without Bledsoe and G Goran Dragic in five of the first 11 games, but G Gerald Green stepped in as the starter and averaged 16.9 points in the past nine games. ... Phoenix's first five losses this season came by a total of 16 points, including two by three points (San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento), one by two points (Brooklyn Nets) and one by one point (Portland Trail Blazers). ... The Kings committed a season-high 21 turnovers against the Suns on Tuesday, but they came into Wednesday's rematch tied for the fewest in the league at 13.1 per game. Sacramento gave the ball away just 11 times in Phoenix.
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