SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns are finding the road is a horrible place to make a playoff push.
One night after a heartbreaking overtime loss in Utah, the Suns had a lackluster effort against the NBA’s worst team. Jason Thompson had 21 points and Spencer Hawes added a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings in a 126-118 victory over the Suns on Sunday night.
Nash scored 31 points for Phoenix, which went 0-3 on its road trip and trails Dallas by four games for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Suns have eight games remaining, including four of their final six on the road.
“There’s some emotional hangover (with Utah loss) and we’re tired, but we’ve still got to dig down and find a way to get it done,” Nash said. “No disrespect for that young team, but we weren’t playing the Lakers or the Celtics. We laid an egg, it was very frustrating.”
It was a rare win for the Kings, who own the NBA’s worst record at 16-56. Still, their typical inadequacies didn’t surface against the Suns. Sacramento shot 51 percent, outrebounded the Suns and beat the older Suns to loose balls most of the evening.
“Yeah, we had fun playing spoiler,” Martin said. “That one is definitely going to mess with Phoenix’s mentality. It’s definitely going to be interesting how they approach us in the next game (on Friday in Phoenix).”
Andres Nocioni and Francisco Garcia each had 19 points for the Kings, who had lost seven of their eight previous games. Kevin Martin scored 17 and Beno Udrih added 16 points and seven assists.
Shaquille O’Neal had 24 points and nine rebounds, Grant Hill 19 points, Jared Dudley had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Jason Richardson added 16 points for Phoenix.
Trailing by as many as 11 points in the fourth, the Suns cut the lead to 118-114 on O’Neal’s basket with 2:52 remaining. But Hawes made a baseline jumper and Rashad McCants made a jumper on consecutive possessions and Phoenix never got any closer.
Although O’Neal hasn’t been on a team since his rookie season (1992-93) that didn’t make the playoffs, he said the Suns’ failures won’t weigh heavily on him personally.
“It’s not going to make me get down on myself or go out and drink rat poison,” O’Neal said. “If it happens, I’ll suck it up and move on.”
It was the fourth game in five nights for the Suns, who start three players (Nash, O’Neal, Hill) who are 35 or older. Nash played 41 minutes, Hill went 38 and O’Neal logged 35.
“They outplayed us, they simply wanted it much more,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s disappointing, we know the magnitude of every game we play now. We need a lot of help along the way now. We have to scoreboard watch.”
The Kings snapped a four-game home losing skid where they are only 11-25 this season. They had lost six straight and 11 of 12 to the Suns.
The Kings used a 14-2 run in the third quarter to build a 14-point lead and took a 105-96 advantage into the fourth.
“I’m not looking at the spoiler situation, I don’t think any of us look at the spoiler situation more so than concentrating on ourselves,” Kings coach Kenny Natt said. “I’m more concerned with the Kings and the way we played.”
Garcia scored 19 points and Nocioni had 15 for the Kings in the first half, which was characterized by little interest in defense by either team. Hill scored 15 points and O’Neal had 13 for Phoenix.
Hill made six of seven shots and scored 13 points in the first quarter. Despite shooting 61 percent, the Suns still trailed 35-33. Garcia had 10 points off the bench for Sacramento.<
Notes: After missing all three shots in the opening quarter, including a baseline jumper at the buzzer, Jackson threw off his protective mask in frustration and started the second quarter without it. Jackson sustained a fractured left cheekbone earlier in the month and refused to have surgery. Former King Vlade Divac, who will have his number retired at Arco Arena on Tuesday, was sitting in a courtside seat. … O’Neal missed 15 of 21 free throws.