Kings will look to take advantage of shorthanded Suns
PHOENIX — Sacramento is making strides in a rebuilding project that began in earnest with the DeMarcus Cousins trade in 2017, while Phoenix is still looking for positive signs.
The young Kings, who had a five-game winning streak early in the season, got back to .500 while breaking a three-game losing streak with a last-minute 111-110 victory over Indiana in their last game Saturday.
Booker tweaked a hamstring while breaking up long pass in the second quarter of a 120-96 loss to the Lakers on Sunday. Warren has missed the last two games with ankle soreness, and neither is expected to play Tuesday.
Kings former first-round draft pick Willie Cauley-Stein dunked an offensive rebound in the final 16 seconds in the victory over Indiana, which had only one field goal in the final three-plus minutes.
The Kings are among the highest-scoring teams in the league, averaging 114.3 points a game, but only Atlanta has given up more than the 117.1 points a game they have allowed.
Putting the late clamps on Atlanta was encouraging to the Kings, who start a four-game road trip that includes stops in Cleveland, Indiana and Chicago.
“It’s good to stop the bleeding a little bit and see if we can go on a little run here on this next road trip,” Cauley-Stein told the Sacramento Bee.
“It’s one of those things like, ‘I need this, we need this, and we need this win,’ so I was locked in on it (offensive rebound). Any time you get a win, it relieves all the pressure.”
Point guard De’Aaron Fox, selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2017 draft, is averaging 17.3 points and 7.5 assists. Fox was taken after the Suns took Josh Jackson at No. 4. Shooting guard Buddy Hield, the primary return from New Orleans in the Cousins trade, leads the Kings in scoring at 18.4.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is averaging 15.5 points off the bench after missing the first 10 games while recovering from left knee surgery. The Suns included him in the 2016 draft-day trade that enabled them to take since-traded Marquese Chriss at No. 8.
Bogdanovic has scored 20 or more in each of the last three games and had a career-high 26 points against the Clippers on Thursday. Coach Dave Joerger has said he plans to give him more time at the point.
“It’s not been easy for him to catch up … and get his rhythm,” Joerger told the paper.
“I think he finally felt very comfortable (against the Clippers). Whether the shots are going in or not doesn’t make a difference if you’re finding a rhythm. I think he’s starting to feel a little bit better, and that’s good for us.”
The Kings added to their young nucleus by selecting forward Marvin Bagley III with the second pick in the 2018 draft, and he is averaging 13.0 points and 6.8 rebounds off the bench. He missed the Indiana game with back spasms, and his status is unknown.
The Suns can only hope for a quick return of at least one of their big guns. They have lost five in a row and eight of nine, the last three by double digits. The Lakers scored 40 points in the second quarter Sunday and ended the first half on a 53-21 run.
“It’s kind of hard not to focus on the record, but we’ve still got games to play,” Jackson told reporters after scoring 13 points in his second straight start in place of Warren.
“We show flashes of how good we could be. We just have to be able to start stringing those runs together and just be better all the time. The more consistent we get, the better we’ll be.”
Booker missed a 99-85 home loss to Orlando on Friday with a left toe injury and played only 17 minutes Sunday. He missed three games with a left hamstring injury earlier in the season, and the Suns have no timetable for his return this time around.
Without Booker (24.5 points a game) and Warren (17.7), the Suns obviously are limited offensively. They shot 39.8 percent from the field against the Lakers and 40.5 percent against Orlando.
“Obviously we can’t be happy with the final result, but I thought we came ready to play, to compete,” Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov said. “The first 10 minutes of the game, we can say that we looked like an organized group and we competed.”