Tonight the Sacramento Kings hosted Shaquille O’Neal and the Phoenix Suns at Arco Arena in Sacramento. The Kings entered with a record of 4-5, while the visiting Suns came in at 6-3. The Kings were trying to reach the .500 mark for the first time this year against the division rival Suns.
The Suns would play without starters Steve Nash and Sacramento native Matt Barnes. Both were serving suspensions for their roles in an altercation Thursday night against the Houston Rockets. The Suns were also missing guard Leandro Barbosa, who was tending to a personal matter in his home Brazil.
Goran Dragic and Grant Hill started in place of Nash and Barnes.
The Kings were playing without guards Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia due to injuries. Jason Thompson started in place of Martin.
With three key players out, the Suns were counting on a big game from Amare Stoudamire. Unfortunately he picked up his second personal foul at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter and had to come out of the game.
Shaq did a great job of controlling the paint defensively and Phoenix led 27-23 at the end of one quarter.
To start the second quarter Shaq came out of the game and Stoudamire came back in with two fouls. The Kings immediately took advantage of this by attacking the rim. Stoudamire picked up a technical foul as he was being swarmed defensively by the Kings big men. Soon he would pick up his third personal and come out of the game again.
The Kings would cool off, shooting just 42.1-percent from the field in the first half, compared to 48.7-percent for the Suns. The Kings missed many wide open shots, while the Suns were able to get easy points on layups and dunks. The Suns played a lot of zone defense and the Kings had trouble attacking the zone.
Shaq had 18 first half points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field for the Suns. Beno Udrih led the Kings with 10 points.
The Suns had twice as many first half rebounds as the Kings (26-13), further evidence of how Shaq was pushing around the Kings big men.
The third quarter saw the Kings continue to struggle from the field, missing open shot after open shot. The Suns remained consistent if not spectacular, and took a 70-61 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter the Suns committed a rash of turnovers that helped the Kings stay in the game. Eventually the Kings made a run and got the game within two points in the final minute.
Solid defense gave the Kings a chance to win at the end.
With the score tied at 86 the Kings had 3.2 seconds and an inbounds play. Guard Quincy Douby came off a screen and had a shot to win. His jumper hit the front of the rim and the teams went to overtime tied at 86.
Amare Stoudamire opened the overtime with two quick jumpers. The Kings stayed close and drew even at 95 with 13 seconds left. Stoudamire hit another tough jumper over Spencer Hawes with 4.5 seconds left.
The Kings had one last chance.
John Salmons got the ball on the baseline and drove for the rim. In a quick sequence he was blocked right beneath the rim. The ball was deflected and landed in the hands of Hawes. Stoudamire rejected his last second shot and time expired. The Suns escaped Sacramento with a 97-95 win.
The Kings were outplayed for most of the game, yet still had many chances to go home with a win. They just got outplayed in the key sequences of the game and went home losers.
For the Suns, Shaq finished with 29 points, 13 boards and six assists. Despite dominating in overtime, Stoudamire finished with just 12 points. Grant Hill also had a big game, adding nine rebounds, four assists and four steals to his 22 points.
John Salmons led the Kings with 21 points. Brad Miller had his second straight solid game finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Spencer Hawes had 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Starters Mikki Moore and Jason Thompson were basically non-factors in the game.
The Kings failed to execute offensively throughout the night. The high post offense wasn’t working at all and they stayed with it way too long. When the Kings did have success in the fourth quarter they were running plays utilizing high screens with guards trying to penetrate. If they had moved to this sooner, the game would have changed dramatically.
You also have to question the play call at the end of regulation. Quincy Douby is a solid young player, but is he really the guy you want taking the last shot?
In the end the difference in this game was Shaq controlling the paint at both ends. The Suns finished with a 48-40 rebounding advantage.
The Suns came in short handed, played poorly and still came away with a win, moving to 7-3 on the season. The Kings fall to 4-6 and will host San Antonio on Sunday night