What we learned as Huerter's return fuels Kings' win vs. Suns


SACRAMENTO -- After getting a chance to catch their breath following a five-game-in-seven-night sequence, the Kings opened another heavy stretch of basketball at home against the Phoenix Suns. 

It was a Friday-night showdown between the Western Conference’s third- and fourth-seeded teams at Golden 1 Center. 

While the Suns were without star forward Kevin Durant, the Kings welcomed back their own Kevin as sharpshooter Kevin Huerter returned to the lineup after missing three consecutive games with a knee injury. 

Here are the takeaways from the Kings' 135-127 win. 

Welcome back, Huerter 

The Kings' sharpshooter is so back. 

After missing the last three games with a right leg injury, Huerter returned to the lineup for Sacramento and showed just how much the team missed him. 

As expected, it took a little while for Huerter to warm up. But once he did, it was lights out inside G1C -- and fans were loving it. 

After being held scoreless in the first quarter and throughout the first 10:28 of the second, Huerter found his groove and scored seven straight points in the final 1:32 to close out the half. That late first-half spark ignited again in the second, as Huerter exploded with 16 points in the third quarter. 

Huerter finished with a team-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and 6 of 12 from behind the arc, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. 

Free-throw frenzy 

It took the Suns one minute and 25 seconds to get to the free-throw line. And then they found their way back to the charity stripe quite frequently from that point on. 

After going an entire quarter without getting to the free throw line, De'Aaron Fox shot Sacramento’s first free throws in the second quarter -- 14 minutes and 23 seconds into the game. 

By the time the first quarter ended, Phoenix had missed all six of its 3-point attempts but was 8 of 9 from the free throw line with a six-point lead. 

The Kings, who also didn’t shoot the 3-ball well, took a page out of Phoenix’s script and duplicated it later in the game. They joined the free-throw fiesta and finished 28 of 32 from the free-throw line. 

A pivotal third quarter 

After being outscored 30-24 in the first quarter and 37-32 in the second, the Kings pulled the plug at the half. 

When the Kings returned to action, they recharged, refocused and plugged back in. A 16-point third-quarter outburst from Huerter helped fuel a 45-26 third quarter for Sacramento. 

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Huerter’s showing, two missed Suns free throws which resulted in free cookies for the more than 17,000 fans in attendance, and a technical foul called on both Devin Booker and Chris Paul had Golden 1 Center absolutely rocking. 

The Kings trailed by 11 points entering the quarter, regained the lead and then never lost it again. The momentum stayed with Sacramento as they were able to outlast the four-seeded Suns.

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