Bradley Beal leads big-time Suns response in ugly win vs. Kings

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For as much as the last two games looked like the Phoenix Suns calling it a day on the 2023-24 season, they had at least one more fight left in them, and it got them a massive 108-107 win on Friday over the Sacramento Kings.

With the victory, Phoenix will finish at worst seventh in the Western Conference, securing homecourt for both play-in games if necessary. Entering this season, No. 7 seeds have never failed to qualify for the playoffs. All six have advanced. Phoenix (48-33) will need a win on Sunday over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a loss for the New Orleans Pelicans (49-32) to avoid the play-in tournament and end up sixth.

Friday was not a sleepwalking journey like Wednesday or an astounding mental collapse like Tuesday. The Suns played hard throughout the entire game, attempting to overcome 19 turnovers, taking 15 fewer shots than the Kings and the usual handfuls of defensive mistakes. Phoenix is at the point where its warts will show every night. In most contests it’s going to require a heater from one of its stars or a strong night of 3-point shooting to win.

But on Friday, it just took that intensity staying high. After brief slippage in the third quarter indicated it was gone and the Suns were down 14, a spark was delivered by Bradley Beal at the start of the fourth quarter. Beal scored 12 of his 20 points in the final frame and the first wave tied the game up.

Phoenix then lost control again, including a turnover that led to a wide-open Keegan Murray 3, the familiar sight of a hot shooter Phoenix kept helping off of despite the player having a rhythm. That put Sacramento back up seven with under five minutes to go before the Suns clawed back.

A Beal steal with just over a minute left got the Suns back down just two, and after Kevin Durant free throws tied the game up, Jusuf Nurkic battled for a loose ball foul at nine seconds remaining and made a free throw to give Phoenix the lead.

Beal then stuffed a De’Aaron Fox drive for the game-winning steal, one Devin Booker took to his Instagram for to provide clarification that the steal he was credited with should go to Beal.

It was ugly, ugly basketball from both sides. Fortunately for the Suns, it was enough of a slog through the mud to make it winnable for them despite all the problems.

And it was important for the fanbase to be shown that someone was still going to fight for them with heart. Beal led that charge and deserves all the praise. Someone needed to light the beacon and wake the locker room up. He achieved that on Friday.

Durant added 28 points, three assists and three turnovers in 42 minutes while Booker grinded through 41 minutes to get to 21 points, six assists and four turnovers.

Grayson Allen returned to the starting lineup with 19 points. Phoenix perplexingly went back to Drew Eubanks off the bench after Thaddeus Young was the standout in Wednesday’s victory.

As far as Sunday, a Denver Nuggets loss on Friday means the Timberwolves are in a three-way tie for the top seed, meaning they have something to play for against the Suns as well. Ditto for the Lakers taking on the Pelicans, as they can still finish eighth and avoid the last two spots of the play-in tournament that require two wins to advance instead of one.

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