Booker returns, but Suns fall flat
Phoenix drops 14th in a row with loss on road
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.
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.