Losers of four straight, Suns look to heat up against suddenly streaking Kings, maintain series dominance.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS FS Arizona
Sacramento Kings and
Phoenix Suns have little to play for over the final three weeks of the season, but the Kings appear less content to ride out the string.
The Kings go for their fourth win in six games Thursday night while trying to earn a rare road victory over the lowly Suns.
The Kings (26-46) are set to miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season but have registered their most wins since 2007-08 after a 105-98 victory at Golden State on Wednesday. Isaiah Thomas had 31 points and made a career-high seven 3-pointers on 12 attempts as Sacramento earned only its second win in 15 road games.
In his last nine games, Thomas is shooting 44.3 percent from beyond the arc and is averaging 20.7 points -- 7.0 better than his season average.
The Kings entered Wednesday's contest with a league-worst 6-30 road record and hadn't defeated an opponent with a winning record away from Sacramento until beating the Warriors.
"I thought overall our guys did a great job. We held our composure," coach Keith Smart said. "A road win, no matter where you are in the season, is always positive."
Earning wins in Phoenix have proved just about as difficult for Sacramento as it's lost in 12 of 13 visits, the most recent a 101-90 defeat Dec. 17. The Kings, though, snapped a five-game overall skid in the series with a 121-112 home victory March 8.
Thomas had a team-best 27 points and was one of four Kings players to top 20.
This time, the point guard and his teammates will face a Suns team that's dropped 10 of 12 after a 103-88 loss in Utah on Wednesday. Phoenix (23-49), which owns the Western Conference's worst record, trailed by four points entering the fourth quarter but was outscored 28-17 in those final 12 minutes. The Suns have been brutal offensively in the fourth quarter during a four-game skid, averaging 18.0 points on 28.9 percent shooting.
Wes Johnson had a season-high 22 points in the losing effort after scoring 21 in a home defeat to Brooklyn on Sunday.
Leading scorer Goran Dragic had 31 points and 12 assists in that 102-100 defeat to the Nets, but was given the night off Wednesday. Dragic has averaged 36.0 minutes over the previous six games and is expected to get some rest over the final 12.
"We're just kind of shutting him down," interim coach Lindsey Hunter said before the game. "He's been playing a whole lot of minutes, and we're going to give him a break periodically through these last couple of games. If you watched him come out of games, he's looked like he's been in a brawl."
The Suns will try to avoid a season-high-tying fourth straight defeat at US Airways Center on Thursday and their fifth in a row overall.
Phoenix needs five wins in its final 10 games to avoid posting its fewest in a full season since going 16-66 in its inaugural 1968-69 campaign. The Suns were 27-23 in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and 28-54 in 1987-88.