Suns try to stay hot against struggling Kings
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
STATS Senior Writer
Over the last few weeks, the Phoenix Suns have been one of the elite teams in the NBA.
The Suns will likely be favored to continue their surge Sunday night when they try to win their 11th straight home meeting with the Sacramento Kings.
Phoenix (26-25) is 11-4 since Jan. 12 to tie Chicago for the second-best mark in the NBA in that span behind league-leading San Antonio, which is 13-3.
The Suns moved above .500 for the first time since Dec. 7 with their sixth win in seven games, 95-83 at Utah on Friday. Although Phoenix has one of the NBA’s worst defenses in allowing 105.3 points per game, the Jazz were limited to 27 second-half points.
“When things weren’t pretty for us, we had guys step up for us,” guard Steve Nash said. “It may not be in our mentality that defense is going to win us games, but we’ve been playing that way the last three weeks and defense has us winning.”
Phoenix has not lost at home to Sacramento (12-38) since a 118-117 loss Nov. 6, 2005. Only two of the games in this streak have been decided by single digits, with the Suns winning by an average of 20.9 points.
The margins of defeat were much smaller for Sacramento during its 1-5 homestand. The Kings opened it with a 102-96 win over New Orleans on Jan. 29 that snapped the Hornets’ 10-game win streak before Sacramento lost the final five by an average of 5.0 points.
The latest loss was Saturday’s 99-97 defeat to Oklahoma City. Sacramento’s rally from a 12-point deficit with 3:32 left fell short when Tyreke Evans’ 3-pointer rimmed out as time expired.
The Kings fell 107-104 to Utah on Monday and 102-100 to Dallas on Wednesday.
“We are close to beating those good teams, but we haven’t broken through,” coach Paul Westphal said Saturday. “I would have liked to come in here after the game and not talk about how close we were.”
Evans finished with 30 points, and is averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 assists in six games against Phoenix.
The other end of the court should have more of an impact on the outcome since Nash has put together impressive performances in those matchups. The 37-year-old Nash is averaging 24.0 points on 58.0 percent shooting and 11.8 assists in those matchups, with five straight double-doubles.
“They have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time running the show, he’s still in his prime, he’s probably only got about 40 more years he can play like this,” Westphal said. “They’re playing very well.”
Sacramento overcame Nash’s 20 points and 12 assists to end a six-game slide against Phoenix with a 94-89 win Jan. 2. Evans contributed little with six points and five assists, but rookie DeMarcus Cousins had a career-high 28 points.
Cousins has three straight double-doubles, averaging 19.3 points and 13.7 boards. He has helped the Kings outrebound their last three foes by an average of 9.7 rebounds.
Sacramento, seeking to win three straight road games for the first time since Dec. 18, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, outrebounded Phoenix 60-32 in last month’s meeting.
Updated February 12, 2011