Suns avenge earlier losses to Kings

Jerry Brown, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- When Phoenix lost to Sacramento on back-to-back nights in November, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe was out with an injury and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins had his way with Phoenix's big men.
But Friday night, Bledsoe was back, the new-look Kings were still adjusting to trades that changed a quarter of their roster and a frustrated Cousins was met with some determined resistance from Suns center Miles Plumlee in a 116-107 Phoenix win at US Airways Center.
Bledsoe combined with guard Goran Dragic for 57 points on 21-for-30 shooting from the field and the Suns outscored Sacramento 19-4 to open the third quarter.
Plumlee added 12 points, nine rebounds, a career-high four steals and three blocks for Phoenix, putting the game away with a soaring, one-handed dunk off forward P.J. Tucker's miss with 1:29 left to give Phoenix a 112-103 lead.
"Plumlee outworked us; they got a lot of offensive rebounds," Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. "The few times they did miss in the fourth quarter, it seemed like they got two or three offensive rebounds.
"That's two games in a row that we haven't defended anybody. When you look at what Bledsoe (a career-high 28 points, eight assists) and Dragic (29 points) did to us, I am embarrassed by our defense."
Plumlee's biggest play came on defense, sparking Phoenix's third-quarter run. With the Suns down 65-63, he ran Cousins down from behind and blocked what Cousins thought would be an uncontested steal and dunk.
Cousins wanted a foul called but instead got into a shouting match with the Phoenix bench. After Bledsoe tied the score with a jumper, Cousins was called for his NBA-high seventh technical foul of the year and Bledsoe's free throw put the Suns ahead to stay.
Cousins finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds but missed 11 of 16 shots from the field.
"The way things were going, you have to retaliate somehow," Plumlee said. "I know I'm fast and I knew I could catch him. It was just a matter of timing. We were getting into it a lot -- my jersey was ripped by the end of the game -- but you have to play through it and we got rewarded."
Dragic had four of Phoenix's 12 3-pointers and Bledsoe added eight assists for the Suns, who have won a season-high four straight and moved to 13-9 this season.
"Goran had a great start. Eric had some early turnovers, but then he got it rolling later on in the game and made some big plays," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "It's a great tag team to have. It's great to see these guys work together and play both of them at the same time."
Guard Isaiah Thomas had 27 points and his new teammate, forward Rudy Gay, added 24 in his debut with the Kings, who acquired Gay, center Aaron Gray and forward Quincy Acy in a trade with Toronto on Monday. But the unfamiliarity was evident and cost the Kings at times.
"That's the thing with trades in the middle of the season -- you have to learn on the fly," Gay said. "This is a relatively young team, so we have to pay attention to detail and get the learning curve faster than normal."
The Suns had 12 turnovers that led to 22 Sacramento points in the first half, a big reason why an early 13-2 lead melted away. But Phoenix had only four turnovers after intermission and the extra possessions came in handy.
The Kings had an 11-point lead in the second quarter and still led 61-58 at intermission before scoring just four points in the first seven minutes. They got as close as four points several times in the fourth quarter, the last at 105-101 on Thomas' driving layup with three minutes left.
But Bledsoe nailed a 3-pointer on the next Phoenix possession and he fed forward P.J. Tucker for a layup and a 110-101 Phoenix lead.
"We are just filling in the blanks as we go," Bledsoe said. "Everything is not going to be perfect. Some games we struggle a little bit. But we are going to play hard and whatever happens, happens."
NOTES: The Suns had 20 or more fast-break points (20) for the 13th time in their first 22 games of the season. That's one more than their total from the 2012-13 season. ... The Kings have scored more than 100 points in five straight games, averaging 106.4 points during that span. ... Kings coach Michael Malone had only one practice and one shootaround with his team since the big trade with Toronto. "The only expectation I have (for the game) is that we play hard, we compete and we bring energy and effort," Malone said. "There are so many new faces and new bodies. We are trying to get those guys up to speed. There are going to be some growing pains as we go through this." ... One improvement during Phoenix's winning streak was the half-court offense and spacing. "If you're three feet from where you're supposed to be, then it makes the angle of that pass more difficult and more likely to end in a turnover," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "You have to fight to get to the spot." ... The Suns are 5-1 this season when forwards Marcus or Markieff Morris scores 20 points off the bench. Both rank among the top 15 league reserves in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and steals.

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