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Game Preview: (UPDATE) Suns ready for regular season to be over

All the regulars NO LONGER appear set to play in the final regular season game.

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New York Knicks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Sacramento Kings (29-52) at Phoenix Suns (64-17)

When: Sunday, April 10, 6:30 AZ time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


According to the latest injury report, the Phoenix Suns are not resting anybody for this regular season finale.

**UPDATE: ALL OF BOOKER, PAUL, CROWDER and AYTON are now OUT**

What gives?

They already have the top playoff seed locked and loaded. They’ve already won more regular season games (64) than any team in the Suns 54-year history. They are almost perfectly healthy (except Cameron Payne’s sore knee) heading into the playoffs and will have a week of practice and rest before the playoffs begin.

Win or lose to the Kings, the Suns standing in history or their standing in the present will not change one iota. They are the one seed, best team in the NBA by a wide margin (8 games).

In fact, no team has gone into the playoffs with a lead as big as 7 games over the next-best NBA team since the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors. Only seven other teams in history can boast a 7+ game lead at the end of the season, and all of them went on to win the championship.

  • 2014-15 Warriors (7 games)
  • 2007-08 Celtics (7)
  • 1999-00 Lakers (8)
  • 1995-96 Bulls (8)
  • 1991-92 Bulls (10)
  • 1983-84 Celtics (8)
  • 1982-83 76ers (7)

It can’t be this easy, right?

You might be worried about those crazy-good Dallas Mavericks of 2006-07 who led the league with 67 games, found a way to win EVERY close game, finished with a 6-game lead over the next-best Suns... and lost in the first round to the ‘We Believe’ Warriors.

They were an awesome team that year: 2nd on offense, 5th on defense and 2nd in net rating. But they didn’t have two legit multi-time All-Stars for when things got rocky. That team had top-75 All-Time great Dirk Nowitzki, but no sidekick. Their next-best player was one-time All-Star Josh Howard. Their first-round loss was surprising, but not unbelievable.

So forget that Dallas team.

These Suns are the class of the league. There’s no smoke-and-mirrors. These Suns are more like the 2013-14 Spurs, who blitzed to the league’s best record and were tops in net rating after losing in the Finals the year before. That Spurs team won the title.

An even more apropos comparison is the 2014-15 Warriors when they first won the title after a first-round exit the year before. They finished 2nd, 1st and 1st on offense, defense and net rating, respectively.

Ok, Dave, you’re scaring us. Karma is a bitch. Stop saying ‘won the title’ before they’ve actually, you know, WON THE TITLE.

Fine. Here’s one that came up short: the 2015-16 Spurs. They had added LaMarcus Aldridge next to star Kawhi Leonard and the aging Hall of Fame trio. They boasted ranks of 4th, 1st and 1st, similar to these Suns, and had the league’s second-best record. Not quite as good as these Suns, but close. But they lost in the second round to the brash young Thunder (who then lost to the 73-win Warriors, who then lost to LeBron’s Cavs).

That’s an example of a really great team getting beat by another really great team who had two MVP talents in their prime in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Why am I talking about this on a game preview about the Suns checking off box No. 82 against the lowly non-playoff Kings?

Because the Suns have not been playing their best basketball heading into this finale, and there are no more ‘get right’ games before the playoffs actually start.

Since clinching the league’s top seed almost three weeks ago, the Suns have gone just 4-3. Their 2nd-ranked offense has plummeted to 28th (dropping them to 5th for the season) and their net rating has dropped to 18th in those seven games.

A year ago, the Suns won their ‘rest’ game on that last day of the regular season. This time the results have been disastrous, leading to a couple of blowout losses at the hands of the Thunder and Clippers.

Take out those rest games and you’ve still got a blowout loss to a Grizzlies team that rested half their lineup and a pair of squeak-it-out games over the incredibly struggling Lakers and Jazz.

The team we’ve seen for the past three weeks is not going to win the West, let alone a title.

So you can understand why head coach Monty Williams is done with ‘rest’ games.


Kings Update

Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Poor Alvin Gentry. Things have gone horribly for the Kings this year. Just horribly.

They are set to finish with fewer wins (29 or 30) than in either of the pandemic-shortened seasons and have no young potential All-Stars on the rise. They traded Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis — who is an East All-Star but does not project to see All-Star jerseys in the West anymore — at the trade deadline for a swing at the play-in, but have utterly stumbled.

Now they finish their 16th straight season OUT of the playoffs, the longest active streak in the league, by far. They have employed 14 head coaches in those 16 years. Five were fired in-season. And they’re likely to start next year with their 15th head coach in 17 years (sorry Alvin).

As they go into the offseason, they have two or three very good veterans (De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes) but they don’t even know if those three can win games together. After trading Haliburton, their best young player is... rookie Davion Mitchell? The defensive dynamo has been averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 assists since the All-Star break, and has run that up to 10.5 assists per game in April with Fox out injured.

They now have the 7th-best lottery odds for their 16th straight attempt at getting a superstar to carry their franchise into a new age.


Two-way musings

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

You know the Suns signed Iffe Lundberg from Denmark to their second two-way contract a few weeks ago, and he got his first basket — a three — and a handful of assists against the Clippers the other night. Today, Iffe hopes to get his final shot at playing time before summer break, where he will then decide if his future is here in the US or back overseas.

Listen to our pod with Danish reporter Morten Stig Jensen yesterday, and then our musings on the state of the Suns right here:

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Suns other two-way is Ish Wainright, who broke out with a 20-point quarter the other day against the Clippers in that fourth quarter comeback that fell just short.

Today, the Suns might be converting Ish to a standard NBA contract so he can remain eligible for the playoffs. They released Frank Kaminsky two days ago, and today he will clear waivers and open up a roster spot for Ish.


Out/injured

Suns: Cameron Payne (knee soreness), Dario Saric (ACL/rehab)

Kings: Nothing submitted to league yet, but Richaun Holmes (personal), Terrence Davis (knee), Domantas Sabonis (knee) and De’Aaron Fox (hand) have all been OUT and will almost certainly remain out. Could be that Alex Len is out too.


Probable Starting Lineups


Prediction

The Suns have to win this game, given their interest in playing the whole healthy roster and the Kings interest in ending their season as quickly as possible.

Suns 120, Kings 100.