Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings
Time: 7 pm (local)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
With just 11 games left in the 2015-16 season, the Phoenix Suns (20-51) go west to take on the Sacramento Kings (27-44) in a matchup of teams that have sorely disappointed their fan bases this season.
The Kings come in to this game having lost two straight and 13 of their past 16 games, which includes a 113-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Mar. 23. In fact, the Kings have not won a home game in over a month.
The team leader remains DeMarcus Cousins, who currently ranks fourth in points per game (27.1), fifth in rebounds per game (11.6), and first in clashes with his head coach, George Karl. Cousins sat out Sacramento's game on Wednesday with a bruised knee but should be good to go tonight. Point guard Rajon Rondo will be feeding the big man all night, as his 11.7 assist average is the highest the league has seen since Rondo posted that number in 2011-12 with the Boston Celtics. Rondo also scores a respectable 11.9 points per game. Outside of those two, Rudy Gay provides solid scoring from the wing, although his 17.2 points is his lowest since his rookie campaign. Darren Collison, Marco Belinelli, and Omri Casspi all fill important roles off the Kings' bench, but Belinelli is shooting a career-worst 30.7 percent from 3. Caron Butler has appeared in five of the Kings' last nine games after playing in just nine of the first 60.
The Kings as a team allow the most points in the NBA at 109.2 per game but that is due in part to playing at the league's fastest pace. In the month of March, that number has fallen to 107.5 points as the Kings have ranked in the top 10 for opponent 3-point percentage after ranking 26th through February.
Points: DeMarcus Cousins (27.1)
Rebounds: DeMarcus Cousins (11.6)
Assists: Rajon Rondo (11.7)
The Suns have gone 5-7 in March for their best month since November. That recent stretch includes beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Mar. 23 in Kobe Bryant's Phoenix farewell.
Devin Booker and Brandon Knight lead the way for the Suns from the backcourt. Knight has averaged 17.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists since returning from his sports hernia on Mar. 10 — an injury he still isn't fully recovered from. Booker, meanwhile, is averaging 21.9 points and 5.2 assists in March (both totals rank second amongst all rookies) and is making a strong argument to be the Western Conference's Rookie of the Month. Alex Len, on the other hand, has regressed after posting 10 consecutive games with double-figure rebounds. His field goal percentage for this month (35.2 percent) is by far the worst of any player 7-foot or taller save for Kelly Olynyk (who shoots 3s and has played in just five games) and Spencer Hawes (who has played one game), and he hasn't reached double-digit boards in the past three games. Jon Leuer, who has filled in nicely for Tyson Chandler recently, has posted back-to-back double-doubles with career-high rebounds, and Mirza Teletovic just became the Suns' all-time leader for 3-pointers off the bench in a single season with 151. Oh, and then there's P.J. Tucker. What can you say? P.J.'s been P.J.
The Suns remain at or near the bottom of the league in a number of categories, including points allowed (29th), opponent field goal percentage (27th), and opponent 3-point percentage (30th) but have improved those numbers in March to 22nd, 11th, and 29th respectively. Phoenix also ranks second in the NBA in total rebounds and fouls drawn and fourth in offensive rebounds in March.
Points: Eric Bledsoe (20.4)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (8.5)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.1)
Eric Bledsoe (Suns): left knee surgery (OUT)
T.J. Warren (Suns): right foot surgery (OUT)
Tyson Chandler (Suns): back spasms (OUT)
Ben McLemore (Kings): fractured right ring finger (OUT)
DeMarcus Cousins (Kings): bruised right knee (PROBABLE)
The Suns and Kings have split the first two meetings this season, with Phoenix winning 118-97 on Nov. 4 at home and losing 142-119 on Jan. 2 in Sacramento. Cousins did not play in the first meeting but lit the Suns up for 32 points in 27 minutes in the second meeting. Historically, Cousins has been a nightmare for Phoenix, but the big frontcourt of Len and Chandler has negated many teams' size advantage lately. However, Chandler will not be there to pair with Len, leaving the foul prone big man to tangle with Cousins himself should Cousins be able to play.
Phoenix has shown an ability to play well — or at least competently — against recent competition, but Sacramento poses a problem for the Suns on a couple fronts. They aren't a team you get up to play and have proven to be a terrible matchup for the Suns, taking six of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. The Kings can implode in on themselves at a moment's notice, but they will probably enter this game brimming with confidence at seeing a beatable opponent walk through the doors of Sleep Train Arena.
DeMarcus Cousins vs. Devin Booker
The two former Kentucky Wildcats won't face each other head to head unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong, but each will be key to leading his respective team to victory. If Booker can continue to roll both with his scoring and ball distribution, he will give the Suns a good shot at winning. If Cousins bulldozes his way through the Phoenix frontcourt, though, it will be a long night in Sacramento for the Purple Gang. For what it's worth, expect an Alan Williams sighting.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.