Suns beat Kings 106-96 in 1st game under Hunter
- Article by: JEFF WEIDEL
- Associated Press
- January 23, 2013 - 11:57 PM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Luis Scola scored 21 points and the Phoenix Suns won their first game under new coach Lindsey Hunter, beating the Sacramento Kings 106-96 on Wednesday night.
The Suns, tied with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference at 14-28, outplayed the Kings in the second half, quieting a Sacramento crowd that was watching the Kings for the first time since the announced sale of the team to a group of Seattle businessmen.
Michael Beasley had 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, when the Suns outscored Sacramento 32-19. Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic and Shannon Brown scored 12 apiece for Phoenix, which has won two straight road games but is 4-17 away from home.
Tyreke Evans scored 16 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped two straight and three of four. Cousins, who committed six of Sacramento's 25 turnovers, was called for his 10th technical foul in the fourth quarter for delay of game.
James Johnson added 14 points for the Kings and rookie forward Thomas Robinson had 12 points and a season-high 14 rebounds off the bench.
This was the first game in Sacramento since the Maloofs, owners of the Kings, reached a deal to sell controlling interest of the team to a group led by investor Chris Hansen, who will file for relocation to move the franchise to Seattle next season. That move will require NBA approval.
On Tuesday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson identified 20 local investors who committed $1 million each in a bid to purchase the Kings. Johnson, who attended the game and sat in a courtside seat, said he plans to announce several major investors later this week in his ongoing effort to keep the team in Sacramento.
The Suns used a 15-1 run in the fourth quarter to grab control of the game. Phoenix closed the spurt with six straight points, taking a 96-85 lead with 4:29 remaining. A three-point play by Scola gave Phoenix a 13-point cushion with just under a minute left.
Despite uncertainty about the team leaving town, the 12,741 Sacramento fans in attendance were surprisingly subdued, treating it like a routine midseason game.
There were multiple signs displayed in support of the team, however, and one courtside fan yelled, "KJ (Kevin Johnson) you're the man" several times. A small group of fans also chanted "Stay in Sac."
"Coaches and for the most part players don't get caught up in everything that goes on off the floor," Kings coach Keith Smart said before the game. "They focus on practices and deal with the guys they work with. You are not paying attention to what your team is doing if you are focusing on the outside. We try to focus on the game."
The Suns played well in the third quarter and continued that trend in the fourth. Scola made a pair of jumpers and Beasley added a dunk and later followed with a jumper at the midway point in the quarter, giving Phoenix a 92-85 lead.
It's been a tumultuous week for the Suns as well. They parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry last Friday following a stretch of seven losses in eight games.
In a surprise move, the Suns named Hunter — formerly the team's player development director — as their interim head coach for the remaining 41 games this season. Hunter spent 17 seasons as a player in the NBA before retiring in 2010, winning NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons.
Unhappy with the hiring of Hunter, assistant coach Dan Majerle departed and Elston Turner may be next to go. The team's lead assistant, Turner was not at Wednesday's game and reportedly will meet with Suns general manager Lance Blanks on Thursday regarding his future with the team.
Markieff Morris scored eight points in the third quarter when the Suns closed the gap, outscoring the Kings 25-20 and pulling to 77-74 entering the fourth.
Johnson hit all five shots in the second quarter when he scored 11 points, helping the Kings take a 57-49 lead into halftime.
NOTES: Cousins connected on a 3-pointer with 1 second left in the first quarter. . Jermaine O'Neal, the Suns' co-captain, did not practice or travel with the team Tuesday due to a medical issue. He reportedly had a verbal confrontation with Blanks earlier in the week. . Kings reserve guard Jimmer Fredette entered in the second quarter after not playing in the two previous games. . Former Suns scout Dan Panaggio returned to the team as a new assistant coach, joining Noel Gillespie and Igor Kokoskov, who replaced Turner as lead assistant.
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