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Game Preview: Pacific Division showdown as Suns face Kings for the first time this season

Both lost in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. Their prize? Each other.

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

What: Phoenix Suns (12-9) vs. Sacramento Kings (11-8)

When: 7:00pm AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Arizona’s Family 3TV

Listen: KMVP 98.7FM


I mentioned something in the Lakersloss recap, stating, “KD tweaked his left ankle on a play defended by Jaxson Hayes and gingerly passed out of the possession. He did return to the game, but if he ends up on the injury report, remember this sentence.”

Dang, I hate it when I’m right.

The Suns will be without Grayson Allen as well, a player who has started 19 games for the team this season. With the Kings coming to town, a team that is just ahead of Phoenix in the standings, they will be short-handed.

Oh well. That’s been the story of the season.

Enter the Kings, a team that like Phoenix did not survive the IST quarterfinal round. They are led in scoring by De'Aaron Fox, who is pouring in a career-high 30.3 points nightly. His running mate Domantas Sabonis is averaging 19 points, adding 11.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists. They are a formidable duo that execute well in late-game situations in the pick-and-roll. Can Nurkic defend it? That is the question.

This will be our first time seeing Jusuf Nurkic take on Sabonis as a member of the Suns. In the past, it was Deandre Ayton who played him well. How have these two matched up? Nurk has done pretty well.

Starting Lineups

Phoenix:

  • Devin Booker
  • Eric Gordon
  • Josh Okogie
  • Keita Bates-Diop
  • Jusuf Nurkic

Sacramento:

  • De'Aaron Fox
  • Kevin Huerter
  • Keegan Murray
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Domantas Sabonis

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of NBA LockerVision:

Injury Report

Phoenix:

  • Grayson Allen - OUT (Right Groin Strain)
  • Kevin Durant - OUT (Left Ankle Sprain)
  • Bradley Beal - OUT (Low Back Strain)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)

Sacramento:

  • Alex Len - OUT (Ankle)

What to Watch For

I’ll start by giving a tip of the hat to the Kings’ uniforms.

The Kings always get it right. It may be strange that three teams in the Pacific Division have the color purple as a primary hue, but when it comes to uniform design, Sacramento always looks clean. Their new script font across the chest is beautiful. And if you’ve seen their city edition uniforms, those too are crisp.

As for what else to watch outside of the uniforms in this game, be prepared to see some three-pointers. The Kings are third in the league with 41.6 attempts a game, hitting 35.4% of them (21st). How the Suns defend the perimeter will be vitally important to their success in the game.

The Suns do have the firepower to counter from beyond the arc, but their two primary three-point shooters are not playing in this game. Kevin Durant is shooting 50% from deep and Grayson Allen is shooting 46.8%. That is going to be hard to replicate.

Therefore, as per usual, it comes down to the battle on the interior.

Jusuf Nurkic is going to have to step up and abuse the Kings close to the cylinder, going through All-Star Domantas Sabonis. Let’s hope that he doesn’t commit one of his stupid swiping files early on and put himself in a position in which the team has to go to the bench early. Drew Eubanks, as explosive as he came on the scene at the beginning of the season, has faded away like Marty McFly playing Johnny Be Good in 1955 Hill Valley.

I do want to say that Eubanks can’t make a triumphant comeback, but we’re still waiting for George McFly to land his lips on Lorraine Baines.

Keys to a Suns Win

Bench scoring.

The Suns currently average 29.7 bench points per game, which is 23rd in the league. Without Durant or Allen (and obviously Beal) the heavy lifting from a scoring standpoint falls on the shoulders of Devin Booker. But those around him will be bumped up in the rotation, therefore creating the necessity for quality minutes from the bench squad.

I’m looking at you, Nassir Little and Yuta Watanabe.

The Kings? They average 37.3 bench points nightly, 9th highest in the league. Advantage Sac Town.

Prediction

I don’t predict Suns’ losses often, but I feel the firepower may be too much for Phoenix to overcome. No Durant and No Allen means something, and unless Booker goes nuclear — which can happen — the Suns will drop to 12-10 on the season.

Kings 119, Suns 109

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