What: Sacramento Kings (20-20) at Phoenix Suns (9-32)
When: Tuesday, January 8, 7:00 p.m. AZ time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns are on a six-game losing streak that’s run their franchise into the second-worst start in their 51-year history, ahead of only (by a single win) their debut season.
The Kings pulled back even with a win over Dallas last night, and are off to their best 40-game start in more than a decade. They sit just outside the playoff picture right now, behind a Lakers team reeling without LeBron James.
They face off in Phoenix tonight on Bright Side Night as more than 3,300 kids come down for our fourth annual Bright Side Night.
The Sacramento Kings are finally bouncing back up off the mat and competing with the rest of the West. They are doing it with an uncanny ability to play at the conference’s fastest pace during the game, but rather than fade in the fourth when other teams slow down the pace they somehow clamp down on defense and run teams over in the fourth.
Over whole games, the Kings are 14th on offense and 23rd on defense, for a negative-1.2 points per 100 possessions (roughly “per game” adjusted for pace).
But in the fourth quarter, those same Kings jump to seventh on offense and 10th on defense for a plus-4.1 net rating while maintaining that same blistering pace. Are they just simply wearing down the opposition?
Watch for that against the Suns tonight.
Turns out Bogdan Bogdanovic, now 26 years old, is a pretty good player. This year for the 20-20 Kings, Bogi is averaging a robust 15.7 points, 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds in just 28 minutes per game. He’s a career 38% shooter from beyond the NBA arc and hasn’t shown any signs of being “too slow” or lacking athleticism for the NBA.
You might remember the Suns had his draft rights at one time, no?
The other guards in the Kings lineup are what keep Bogdan out of the regular starting lineup. De’Aaron Fox has been incredible this year, averaging 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 32 minutes per game, while Buddy Hield is cracking that 20ppg bareer with 20.3 points per game, 5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Those three drive the Kings train, while they’re getting great support from the rest of the lineup.
Unfortunately for the Suns, the Kings are really good getting out in transition while the Suns are one of the league’s worst teams at stopping the opponent in transition. The Suns are just bad at stopping opponents anywhere, of course, but in transition it’s painful.
If Devin Booker can’t play (lower back spasms, after falling last week) then our Bright Side Night could be a laugher, but at least the kids will get to see some open court scoring!
Speaking of Booker, he’s dealt with some aches and pains over the past year.
Last season Devin Booker had a right knee thing, a back/hip thing, inflammation in his right big toe, a left adductor strain, right rib contusion, left hip pointer, triceps strain and a right hand injury that eventually brought on surgery in the offseason.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 7, 2019
This season he played on his way back from that surgery, sprained his left pinky, strained his left hamstring and then re-aggravated it, dealt with a left big toe thing and a lower back contusion.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 7, 2019
Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports has more on Booker’s injury bugs here.
For what it’s worth, Booker’s continued nagging injuries are killing the Suns chances at winning games, but I think that’s a product of the roster forcing a high-contact high usage rate at too young an age for Booker’s body. If the Suns can increase the talent level on the roster around Booker, lower his usage rate, he will be healthier. But that’s just a guess on my part.
Everyone else seems healthy these days.
Previous matchup — Dec. 4
The Kings won big in Phoenix in early December, 122-105, with the three guards leading the way against a depleted Suns team missing both Devin Booker and T.J. Warren.
The Kings outscored the Suns 38-9 in that first quarter, the first of two consecutive games the Suns posted only 9 first quarter points.
Off the deep bench, De’Anthony Melton had his breakout game — 21 points on 9/12 shots (3/4 from deep) — and Dragan Bender was a +15 on the night in 12 minutes of garbage time in the second half.
Welp. Six-game losing streak. Booker probably out or hobbled. Kings are fast and hot.
Kings by a comfy margin again.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong on this.