SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat had the game ball tucked under his jersey, and before heading into the locker room to celebrate, he approached an official at the scorer's table.
"I'm keeping the ball, so fine me for it, or send me a bill," Gortat said with a wry smile.
Luis Scola scored 21 points and the Suns won their first game under new coach Lindsey Hunter, who was presented the game ball after a 106-96 victory over the Sacramento Kings 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.
It's been a tumultuous week for the Suns, too. 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.
"That was really exciting," said Hunter, who appeared to rely heavily on his assistant coaches throughout the game. "I'm more excited for the guys than I am anything else. They've worked so hard for me these past couple of days. This is a long, long journey and this is just the beginning for all of us."
Unhappy with the hiring of Hunter, assistant coach Dan Majerle departed and Elston Turner may be next to go. The team's lead assistant, Turner was not at Wednesday's game and reportedly will meet with Suns general manager Lance Blanks on Thursday regarding his future with the team.
"It's been painful," Scola said about the coaching changes. "You don't want it to happen. It's not the coach's fault, it's everyone's fault. We couldn't do it with Alvin, but we're going to try to make this coach successful."
The Suns were successful in Hunter's debut, thanks in large part to Michael Beasley. Playing in a reserve role, Beasley had 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Suns outscored Sacramento 32-19.
"We defended. And Michael Beasley was tremendous in the fourth quarter," Gortat said. "He took the game over by himself. He was unstoppable and gave us three straight possessions where he scored. He definitely helped us win."
The Suns shot nearly 48 percent and outscored the Kings 57-39 in the second half. 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.
"They just made some good switches and changes at halftime," said Kings forward James Johnson, who had 14 points. "It worked on us. And Michael Beasley came in and we couldn't stop him during that run."
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 season-high 25 turnovers, was called for his 10th technical foul in the fourth quarter for delay of game.
Rookie forward Thomas Robinson had 12 points and a season-high 14 rebounds off the bench for the Kings, who outrebounded Phoenix 49-30.
"A very disappointing loss for our basketball team — 25 turnovers, 27 points we gave on those turnovers, and a lot of missed free throws (15 of 24)," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "It's unfortunate for our team to lose this game. Don't take anything away from Phoenix, they made plays when they had to."
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