Suns-Kings Preview

After a win over the Western Conference leaders in their last

game, the Sacramento Kings are feeling positive about the direction

their young team is headed.

The Kings look to win their fourth straight at home Saturday

night when they take on the Phoenix Suns.

Sacramento is in the midst of its best stretch of the season,

winning four of five, and is coming off a 106-101 victory over

West-leading Oklahoma City on Thursday.

Tyreke Evans scored 22 points while DeMarcus Cousins added 19

points and nine rebounds.

The Kings (10-16) scored 28 points off 23 turnovers and had 17

offensive rebounds. It was the third time in four games they topped

100 points after reaching that mark just twice in the previous 22

games.

“We’ve improved as a team, we’re on the right path now,” Cousins

said. “We’re a lot better than our record shows. We’ve grown so

much from the team we used to be.”

Cousins and Evans have both taken steps forward under coach

Keith Smart. Cousins, who clashed with Paul Westphal before he was

fired Jan. 5, is averaging 19.5 points and 14.8 rebounds over the

last four games. Evans has averaged 21.4 points in the last seven

games after putting up 15.9 per game to start the season.

“We’re trying to build. These two guys are the stones right

now,” Smart said. “Now they’re young and they get excited, but …

if they can keep this process up, we’re going to get there.”

Sacramento, which improved to 7-4 at home with Thursday’s win,

has won three consecutive home games for the first time since a

four-game run Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2009.

The Kings have yet to face Phoenix this season but have won

three straight meetings after losing 17 of the previous 19.

While Sacramento is feeling confident about its direction, the

Suns (11-15) may have come away from their last game feeling like

they took a step back.

After winning three straight while averaging 100.3 points,

Phoenix lost 96-89 at home to Houston on Thursday. The Suns were

held to 13 points in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded

44-31.

“Such a winnable game for us,” said Steve Nash, who had 13

assists and averages a league-best 10.1. “We didn’t convert in so

many areas, so it makes it a really disappointing loss. You’re

going to have cold patches but you’ve got to find other ways to

stay in the game.”

The loss spoiled an otherwise good day for Nash, who was named

to the All-Star team for the eighth time and became just the fourth

player at age 38 or older to make it.

Sacramento has certainly been witness to Nash’s consistency over

the years. In the last 10 games between the teams, he’s averaged

23.9 points and 12.6 assists.

While the Suns have struggled at home, they are playing better

on the road, winning two straight and three of four. Phoenix will

play its next three on the road.

“We’re going to continue to work hard, go on this road trip and

do the best we can,” said Channing Frye, who had a season-high 21

points and 10 rebounds Thursday.

Frye has made nine 3-pointers over the past three games after an

eight-game stretch during which he went 4 for 23 from beyond the

arc.