Time: 8:30 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns (15-34) will try to snap a season-long five-game losing streak on the road against the Sacramento Kings (19-30).
DeMarcus Cousins, named to the Western Conference All-Star team for the third straight season, ranks fourth in the NBA for scoring at 28.2 points per game, which also constitutes his career high. Cousins also leads the Kings in rebounding at over 10 per contest and is second on the team in assists at 4.4 per game. And since every big man wants to be a guard, he is shooting a career-high 37.3 percent from 3-point range. The loss of Rudy Gay to a ruptured Achilles tendon was a blow to the offense, leaving Darren Collison as the team’s second leading scorer at 12.8 points per game. Arron Afflalo and Willie Cauley-Stein have both stepped up in Gay’s absence, and Garrett Temple had been doing the same before going down with a hamstring injury in Sacramento’s last game. Ben McLemore has been a significant disappointment this season, averaging a career-low 5.1 points on sub-.400 shooting.
The Kings don’t do any one thing particularly well. They rank 10th in the NBA for forcing turnovers (14.7), opponent rebounding (42.6), and steals (8.1) but 25th for opponent field goal percentage (46.5), 26th for opponent 3-point percentage (37.4), and 29th in rebounding (40.7). They are only 2.5 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the West’s 8th seed but just four games ahead of Phoenix for the West’s basement.
Points: DeMarcus Cousins (28.2)
Rebounds: DeMarcus Cousins (10.5)
Assists: Ty Lawson (4.5)
Losers of five straight games, including a 124-114 loss at home to the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the Suns hope to pick up their first win of February in California’s capital.
Eric Bledsoe has been on a warpath of late, posting three 40-point games in the span of 11 days to break Charlie Scott’s team record of three 40-point games in 13 days in 1973-74. Devin Booker, meanwhile, continues to chug along, posting 20 or more points in 14 straight games — the most since Amar’e Stoudemire did it in 15 straight. Marquese Chriss was just named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for January after averaging 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.4 steals over 14 games. (Let’s be honest, it was a weak month for West rookies.) Rebounding machine Tyson Chandler has seen his board numbers slip to 11.8 after failing to grab more than five rebounds in three of his last four games. P.J. Tucker, on the other hand, hauled in a season-high 14 caroms in his last game.
Phoenix continues to struggle with allowing opponents to shoot high percentages against them. The Suns rank 28th for opponent field goal percentage (47.1) and 29th for opponent 3-point percentage (38.8) while sending their opponent to the line 28.3 times per game (29th in the league). The Suns are fifth in the NBA at forcing turnovers (15.4 per game) but allow 112.3 points per game because of what they do when their opponent isn’t handing over possession.
Points: Eric Bledsoe (21.6)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (11.8)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.2)
Omri Casspi (Kings): right calf strain (OUT)
Rudy Gay (Kings): ruptured left Achilles (OUT)
Ty Lawson (Kings): hand injury (PROBABLE)
Garrett Temple (Kings): left hamstring tear (OUT)
These two teams have met only once this season, a 113-94 loss for the Suns at home to the Kings on Oct. 26.
The Kings have won six of the last seven meetings between the two teams and have not lost to the Suns at home with DeMarcus Cousins in their lineup since Jan. 23, 2013. Sacramento does indeed have Cousins tonight and are playing at home for the first time since Jan. 18 after wrapping up an 8-game road trip. The Suns have a chance to sneak up on a Kings team that may be happy just to be back home, but they have to be sharp. Jump on the Kings early, and the Suns have a chance to break their spirit. Let the game come down to the wire, and Cousins more than likely delivers the Kings another win over Phoenix.
Alex Len vs. DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins has a tendency to play Godzilla to Phoenix’s Tokyo. In fact, he hasn’t been held below 20 points by the Suns since the 2013-14 season. The first meeting this season saw him put up 24 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes — a somewhat muted effort in a game where the Kings blew out the Suns. He will likely be looking for a bounce back game after posting a subpar 16 points and seven rebounds in a 22-point loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. Alex Len, the Suns’ best interior defender by far — holding opponents 11.5 percent below their field goal percentage within six feet of the rim — will need to stay away from those dumb fouls to remain on the court and battle Cousins. Limiting Cousins’ effectiveness is Phoenix’s best hope at coming away with a rare win.
Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)
There has been a lot of talk about Devin Booker’s streak of consecutive games with 20-plus points (currently at 14). Much has been made of him chasing Charles Barkley (15 games twice), Amar’e Stoudemire (15 games twice & 18 games), and Tom Chambers (15 games & 21 games) in the team record books, but nary a word has been spent talking about the 17-game streak that Charlie Scott put together in 1974-75 or the 20-game streak by Gail Goodrich in 1968-69. Heck, nothing even about the 15-game streak from Walter Davis that spanned the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons.
Shame on you, people who have been talking about this record and forgetting these other guys. Shame on you all.