The Sacramento Kings will go for a season-series win over the host Phoenix Suns when two of the top teams in the Pacific Division face off on Tuesday night for the fourth of five regular-season meetings.
By virtue of a late schedule addition brought about by the NBA in-season tournament, the Suns got the advantage of hosting the Kings three times this season. But they gave away that home-court edge when they were beaten 114-106 in Phoenix on Dec. 8 in the first meeting between the teams.
The clubs have since split a pair of games, each winning at home, and now each also has one home date remaining in the five-game season series.
Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox have been the driving forces in the Kings’ success against the Suns this season.
Sabonis has recorded triple-doubles in each of the past two meetings and has averaged 21.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists over the three games, while Fox has gone for an average of 30.0 points.
The Kings have lost three of their past four overall to fall a half-game behind the Suns in the Pacific, with both teams chasing the Los Angeles Clippers. Sacramento, which lost 127-113 at Oklahoma City on Sunday, will complete a tough three-game road trip with a visit to Denver on Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back.
The mini-slump coincides with the Kings having stood pat at the trade deadline while others around them in the playoff chase — including the Suns — made efforts to get better.
Sacramento coach Mike Brown defended the decision over the weekend.
“I believe in this group and I was a proponent of bringing the group back,” he said. “We had a good first year, but we need to take steps and we need to see if this group and this nucleus can take steps, and I think we have. … Now it’s time to go get it.”
The Suns imported Royce O’Neale from the Brooklyn Nets and David Roddy from the Memphis Grizzlies at the deadline.
O’Neale made his Phoenix debut Saturday in a 113-112 loss at Golden State, contributing three points and four rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench. Roddy did not play.
Suns general manager James Jones explained the moves were made with the future in mind as much as the present.
“We wanted to come out of (the trade deadline) with a player that could help us in the playoffs,” Jones said. “This is all about getting better and get ready to run that race in the postseason.
“In looking at what our options were, Royce and David provided us something that we desperately needed.”
The Kings shouldn’t need a scouting report on either Phoenix newcomer.
They saw O’Neale regularly as a five-year member of the Utah Jazz. They faced Roddy twice earlier this season while he was with Memphis, including once when the second-year forward had nine points and a season-high-tying 10 rebounds.
The Suns had won three in a row before the loss at Golden State. They will complete their pre-All-Star-break schedule with a second home game in two nights when the Detroit Pistons visit on Wednesday.