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Suns surge past Kings in Hunter's coaching debut

The SportsXchange

SACRAMENTO -- Lindsey Hunter is off to a good start as an NBA head coach.

Playing their first game since Hunter became the interim coach following the departure of Alvin Gentry, the Phoenix Suns rallied to beat the Sacramento Kings 106-96 Wednesday night before a crowd of 12,741 at Sleep Train Arena.

Phoenix (14-28) improved to 4-17 on the road by outscoring Sacramento 32-19 in the fourth quarter.

Hunter wore a huge smile after the game.

"That was pretty exciting," he said. "I'm more excited for the guys than I am anything else. They've worked so hard for me these past couple of days. This is a long, long journey, and this is just the beginning for all of us."

The Kings (16-27) sabotaged their own effort by turning the ball over 25 times.

"This is a very disappointing loss for our basketball team," he said. "Twenty-seven points we gave up on those turnovers. Then we had a lot of missed free throws."

Sacramento shot 15-for-24 from the foul line.

The Kings never could find an answer for Phoenix reserve forward Michael Beasley, who scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. Beasley finished with 19 points in 22 minutes.

"He was absolutely tremendous," Hunter said of Beasley. "That's the type of fire we have been looking for out of him. It wasn't just offensively, but defensively he was great as well. He challenged the shot, rebounded the basketball and moved his feet. This is just one game for him to build on."

Beasley has struggled all season, but he always plays well against the Kings. Wednesday night was no exception, as he scored in a variety of manners.

"I have no explanation why I play so well here," he said. "I guess I like this gym. I wanted to be aggressive and make something happen on both ends. We let our defense do the work, and we wanted to keep them to just one shot."

Beasley admitted to being frustrated by his career, which has seen him play for the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix since he was the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2008.

"How many clean slates am I going to get? I might as well keep my slate clean," he said. "I'm just taking it as it goes. Everybody has a good game here and there. The great ones have bad games here and there, and that's exactly where I want to get, just playing basketball the right way.

"I'm tired of having superb talent. I don't want to be talented anymore. I want to be a good player, a great player. I want to be consistent. I want my team to be top five, top 10 at least."

Phoenix got a game-high 21 points from Luis Scola, one of six Suns to score in double figures. Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic and Shannon Brown each had 12, while Markieff Morris scored 10.

Tyreke Evans led the Kings with 16 points, while DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Cousins also contributed six of the Kings' 25 turnovers. Rookie forward Thomas Robinson had a career-high-tying 12 points, and he grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds.

The Suns stayed close until the fourth quarter, trailing by three after three periods before surging late for the win.

Sacramento's offense went into the tank in the final quarter, and Phoenix used a 15-1 run to grab a 96-85 lead midway through the period.

Hunter, who never before had been an NBA coach, leaned heavily upon assistant coach Igor Kokoskov throughout the contest.

The game was ragged for both teams. The Kings had 17 turnovers through three quarters, and that nullified a commanding rebounding advantage. Sacramento wound up with a 49-30 edge on the boards.

NOTES: The Kings host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday before leaving on a six-game, 10-day road trip. The Suns return home to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. ... Kings center DeMarcus Cousins and Warriors forward David Lee are the NBA's only players to average at least 18 points and 10 rebounds this season. ... The Suns had not played since Jan. 17. ... Former Kings assistant coach Elston Turner was an assistant for former Gentry. Turner did not travel with the team to Sacramento and has not attended a practice this week. Former Suns player Dan Majerle left his post as an assistant coach after being passed over for the head-coaching job. ... Kings coach Keith Smart believes rookie forward Robinson can become a great defender. "He has all the physical qualities to become a defender who can guard both forward positions. For him, it's about learning the tendencies of individual players and their teams. It's about learning and understanding."
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