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Preview: Undermanned Suns face playoff-hopeful Kings

The Suns seek to even their season series 2-2 with the Kings tonight.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Game: Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings

The Time: 7:00 pm (Phoenix time)

The Place: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM/1400 AM (Spanish)

Less than a week ago, I thought that the Suns had a good shot at winning this game.

That was before I knew that Kelly Oubre Jr. was going to miss the rest of the season. I also thought that Tyler Johnson would be back fairly soon and I had no idea the Josh Jackson would suffer an ankle sprain that could cause him to miss this game.

The Suns don’t have a lot of healthy bodies at the moment and their margin for error was small enough before. Now it’s microscopic.

The Kings aren’t suffering from the injury bug as is Phoenix and they still have very faint playoff hopes. It’s extremely unlikely that they could make the playoffs at this point — they are seven wins behind 8th seed San Antonio with 11 to play — but it’s been quite a while since the Kings were even in the playoff race this late in the season so don’t expect them to not give their best tonight. They’re just one game under .500 and I’m sure they would love to end this season with a winning record, their first since the 2005-06 season. Suns’ assistant coach Corliss Williamson was still playing for them back then.

They also have zero incentive to tank for draft position as their 2019 first round draft pick doesn’t belong to them.

Do the Suns have a chance to win this game? Sure they do but, as I said before, their margin for error is microscopic.

The Kings (35-36)

Stats: OffRtg - 108.9 (18th), DefRtg - 109.6 (17th), NetRtg - minus-0.8 (19th)

Probable Starting Lineup: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein

Injury report: Harry Giles (thigh) - game time decision, Troy Williams (undisclosed) - game time decision, Wenyen Gabriel (ankle) - game time decision.

Although the Kings are having their best season in 13 years, they’re still basically just average for the NBA. Average, however, is better than the Suns have been for most of this season.

One of the things that they are very good at though is shooting three pointers. Although they are a little below average in attempts (20th, 29.8), they are 4th in percentage (37.3%). They’re also very good at scoring in the paint (6th, 51.8 PITP per game). This adds up to 114.1 points per game for the Kings (9th).

Containing them offensively won’t be easy.

De’Aaron Fox is having a great second year (16.6 pts/7.2 assists/1.6 steals) and Buddy Hield has been averaging 20.8 ppg while hitting 43% on threes. Willie Cauley-Stein, Nemanja Bjelica and Harrison Barnes are collectively pulling down 21.7 rebonds per game while also adding 36.4 ppg. Then they have Marvin Bagley III and Bogdan Bogdanovic coming of the bench. Bagley is coming off a 22 point/12 rebound/4 block night against the Mavericks.

Team Leaders

Points: Buddy Hield (20.8)

Rebounds: Willie Cauley-Stein (8.6)

Assists: De’Aaron Fox (7.2)

The Suns (17-56)

Stats: OffRtg - 104.8 (29th), DefRtg - 113.4 (29th), NetRtg - minus-8.7 (29th)

Probable Starting Lineup: De’Anthony Melton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Dragan Bender, Deandre Ayton

Injury report: Kelly Oubre Jr. (thumb) - OUT, T.J. Warren (ankle) - OUT, Tyler Johnson (knee) - game time decision, Josh Jackson (ankle) - game time decision

The starting lineup is really dependent on if any of the “game time decision” players can actually play tonight. If only one returns from the injured list, it still might not be enough to make much of a difference.

The Suns are going to need great nights from Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton as well as some above average play from many others. The Suns have been notoriously weak in rebounding this season and losing the battle for the boards tonight will not be helpful if their playing to win. The Kings aren’t a great rebounding team but the Suns are a bad one which could make them look great.

Defensive effort needs to be a priority tonight. Defensive lapses have hurt the Suns all season long and probably will again in this game but they can’t give up on that end. The Kings are one of the better teams in avoiding turnovers this season (9th) so the Suns are going to have to work hard to create extra opportunities for themselves.

Speaking of turnovers, the Suns can’t afford to give the ball away 19 times as they did against the Pistons on Wednesday.

This team has a lot going against them tonight as well as at least one unknown... Jimmer Fredette. Yes, Jimmer will be suiting up for not only his first game with the Suns but his first in the NBA in three years. After very limited practice time with the team, I wouldn’t expect him to see a lot of action in this game but who knows. If his hot shooting from the CBA shows up tonight in the NBA, he could see more court time than expected - even if he doesn’t know much of the Suns’ offensive system yet.

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (25.5)

Rebounds: Deandre Ayton (10.3)

Assists: Devin Booker (6.7)



It’s hard to make a prediction in this one with so many question marks about which players may or may not even be available for the Suns. I’m expecting the worst but hopefully the remnants of the team will at least put up a good fight.

Prediction: Suns lose 117-98.

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