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The Suns are not the Cavaliers, nor are they the Lakers.
They are members of the Western Conference's upper middle class, a squad that has returned to its running roots but won't be challenging for the title come June. Which means one thing for the Kings: it's time to get a win.
During this recent stretch that coach Paul Westphal referred to as "murderer's row," his team has been competitive against each and every one of the top-tier team (That's Cleveland, the Lakers and Dallas, while laying one egg against Philadelphia and downing a Denver team without Chauncey Billups). But they now find themselves in danger of cutting their own surprise story short, as the attention and credit will begin to wane should they fall too far below .500.
The Kings showed they can keep up with the Seven-Seconds-or-Less 2.0 team in their Dec. 6 loss in Phoenix, but this one offers the chance to re-establish home court advantage after dropping four of their last five at Arco Arena (11-7 overall). The Suns have had the Kings' number since the second half of the 2004-05 campaign, winning 13 of the last 15 matchups.
As Westphal sees it, they have to limit turnovers for that to happen. They fixed the problem for a short while in early to mid-December, but are back to the charity effort again (15.6 per game in the last nine games). On the season, the Kings are tied for 24th in turnovers per game (15.5).
"That's got to be our next step in the development," Westphal said. "We're having too many turnovers...and that's a very important part of our evolution of our team."
This team can clearly compete with any squad in the league, but they are 6-16 against teams that currently have a .500 record or better (wins against Memphis, Utah, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans and Denver). The growth can only go so far, however, when moral victories are the norm.
From The Bee
First practice back, Garcia in flow, By Sam Amick
Evans again is West's Rookie of the Month, By Sam Amick
From the Arizona Republic
Suns vs. Kings means Dragic, Udrih reunite, By Paul Coro
PHOENIX (21-13) AT KINGS (14-19)
When: 7 p.m. Where: Arco Arena.
TV: CSNCA. Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).
Kings update: Considering the Kings' challenge at the moment is learning how to beat - not just compete - with upper-echelon teams, the timing couldn't be better for them to face the Suns. The Suns had trouble with Sacramento on Dec. 5 in Phoenix before winning 115-107, this after the Kings had been blown out almost every time out against the Suns in recent years.
Suns update: These Suns aren't nearly as hot as they were, having lost 10 of their last 17 games after starting 14-3. They've been tough to figure out recently, beating the Lakers and Celtics in back-to-back games on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 before getting blown out (128-103) by Memphis on Saturday.
No. Player Pos.
13 Tyreke Evans PG
18 Omri Casspi SG
20 Donté Greene SF
34 Jason Thompson PF
31 Spencer Hawes C
No. Player Pos.
13 Steve Nash PG
23 Jason Richardson SG
33 Grant Hill SF
1 Amar'e Stoudemire PF
8 Channing Frye C
- Sam Amick