SACRAMENTO — 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.