Coach Michael Malone only needed six words to capture the essence of the Kings’ problems in their last two losses.
“Our defense is embarrassing right now,” Malone said.
The Kings left the court with plenty to be ashamed of defensively in losing to the Phoenix Suns 116-107 on Friday night at US Airways Center.
As has been the case most of the season, the opposing guards had their way as Eric Bledsoe tallied 28 points and eight assists. Goran Dragic scored 29 points.
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The problems that have allowed so many other guards to dictate play against the Kings were reasons Malone suggested to reporters before the game that maybe he shouldn’t be known as a defensive coach, based on how the Kings have defended most of the season.
“We didn’t stop them,” Kings guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We didn’t talk on defense; we didn’t do anything we worked on defensively. Coverages were bad as a group. ... As guards, we’ve got to take the blame, but as a unit we’re not on the same page.”
Phoenix’s offensive onslaught overshadowed the debut of new starting small forward Rudy Gay, who had 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
Gay and center Aaron Gray were two of the three players acquired from Toronto in Monday’s trade who played Friday.
Malone expected some problems with the roster turnover. That didn’t excuse allowing the Suns’ starting backcourt from torching whoever the Kings put on the court.
Dragic and Bledsoe combined to shoot 21 of 30 from the field.
“Rudy and Aaron have an excuse,” Malone said. “All those other guys don’t. Dragic had his way with us. Bledsoe had his way with us. We couldn’t stop the ball, we couldn’t stop the 3-point shot. It’s just another example of the same old story with our defense.”
Phoenix shot 49.4 percent for the game.
The Suns shot 63.6 percent in the first half, best by a Kings opponent this season. Memphis shot 60.6 in the second half of a game Nov. 17 in Sacramento to beat the Kings (6-15).
The Suns also made 12 of 24 3-pointers. The 50 percent mark from 3-point range was a season high for Phoenix (13-9).
“At some point, guys have got to take some pride,” Malone said. “You have a game plan and you go into the game having certain coverages, but after a while it’s not about the coverages. It’s about having defensive pride, being able to stop your man; not letting guys jump over you, get dunks and finish on top of you. Hopefully, we’ll get it.”
Thomas’ frustration is that the Kings go into games prepared. That also keeps him from panicking over the defensive play.
“I’m not concerned because we know what to do. It’s just about going out there and doing it. Forget everything else, forget the offensive end, forget turnovers, forget missed shots, we’ve got to get stops,” he said.
Thomas finished with 29 points. Gay’s 24 points were tied for fourth most by a player in his Kings debut (tied with Billy Knight).
“Guys helped me, coach helped me,” Gay said. “They put me in the right spots and made it an easy transition. I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I think I can still get better.”