Booker re­turns, but Suns fall flat

Phoenix drops 14th in a row with loss on road

The Arizona Republic - - Sports - Duane Rankin AP

SACRA­MENTO – Devin Booker came back from in­jury, Tyler John­son started at point guard – but the los­ing con­tin­ued for the Phoenix Suns.

Sacra­mento led by as many as 21 points in the first half in hand­ing the Suns a 14th con­sec­u­tive loss, 117-104, Sun­day af­ter­noon at Golden 1 Cen­ter.

The Suns (11-47) are a loss away from ty­ing a fran­chise record for con­sec­u­tive de­feats set last sea­son.

As bad as that sounds, this could’ve been worse had Booker needed a cart to leave the court Sun­day.

Booker knocked his left knee with Bog­dan Bog­danovic, who looked to drive around him on the base­line in the third quar­ter.

Miss­ing the past two games with right ham­string tight­ness, Booker stayed down for a minute grab­bing at his knee. Booker limped off the court, had a brace on it while on the bench, but re­turned to start the fourth quar­ter as he fin­ished with a team-high 27 points, eight boards and six as­sists.

Booker knocked down a 3 to cut what was once a 25-point, sec­ond-half Sacra­mento lead to 12, but rookie 7-footer Marvin Ba­gley III scored nine straight points to put the Kings up 96-77 with 9:51 left.

Ba­gley, in his first NBA reg­u­lar sea­son game against his home­town team, went for a ca­reer-high 32 points with 14 com­ing in the fourth for Sacra­mento (30-26).

The one-and-done Duke All-Amer­i­can was in­jured for the two pre­vi­ous games against the Suns that were both in Phoenix.

This is not how the Suns en­vi­sioned Sun­day’s game go­ing with Booker back from his lat­est ham­string setback.

The Suns were com­ing off a strong ef­fort in Fri­day’s loss against Golden State.

Kevin Du­rant, Klay Thomp­son and Golden State coach Steve Kerr gave props to the Suns, who led Golden State by as many as 17 points in the first half with­out Booker, TJ War­ren and rookie point guard De’An­thony Mel­ton be­fore los­ing by 10.

“They played ex­tremely hard,” said Du­rant af­ter the game. “There’s a lot of turnover on this team. They got so many young play­ers com­ing in and out of there, they don't have a point guard. DBook has been in and out of the lineup. You just want to see a young team that plays ex­tremely hard and makes it a com­pet­i­tive game and tonight they did that."

The Suns came off that game with some con­fi­dence.

TJ War­ren missed his ninth straight game with right an­kle sore­ness and rookie point guard De’An­thony Mel­ton sat for an eighth straight game with a right an­kle sprain – but Booker was back.

Plus, John­son got his first start for the Suns in his sec­ond game with the fran­chise since be­ing traded from Mi­ami to Phoenix for 10-year vet­eran Ryan An­der­son be­fore Thurs­day’s trade dead­line.

The Suns still dropped an­other one. Booker had a strong scor­ing first half with 15 points on 5-of-9 shoot­ing, but the rest of the Suns shot 13-of-36 in scor­ing 29 points.

As a team, Phoenix went 2-of-14 from 3 in the first half in fin­ish­ing 6-of-27 for the game from dis­tance.

Add eight Phoenix first-half turnovers that led to 12 Sacra­mento (30-26) points and yield­ing 51 per­cent shoot­ing and no won­der the Suns were down 19 at the half, 63-44.

The Suns will play Wed­nes­day at Los An­ge­les against the Clip­pers, who have beaten them three times this sea­son, be­fore the All-Star break.

They re­turn to ac­tion Feb. 21 at Cleve­land to be­gin a three-game road trip that con­tin­ues Feb. 23 at At­lanta and con­cludes Feb. 25 at Mi­ami.

Phoenix lost at home to the Heat, 11598, in De­cem­ber and fell to At­lanta, 118112, ear­lier this month. The Suns have yet to play the Cava­liers, who also have just 11 wins and lost 23 of their last 56 games.

As bad as that sounds, Phoenix is on a sim­i­lar skid – 3-21 in its last 24 games.

And it could get even worse.

Suns guard Devin Booker, right, is fouled by Kings guard De'Aaron Fox on Sun­day. Booker re­turned from in­jury to score a team-high 27.

PHO­TOS BY SER­GIO ESTRADA/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Suns guard Tyler John­son (16) talks with guard Devin Booker dur­ing the fourth quar­ter against the Kings at Golden 1 Cen­ter in Sacra­mento on Sun­day.

Suns for­ward Mikal Bridges shoots over Kings cen­ter Wil­lie Cauley-Stein dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter in Sacra­mento on Sun­day.

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