This series has been one-sided for the past two years and it has not been in the favor of the team that actually has a winning record this season...
Last time the Phoenix Suns (12-9) hosted the Sacramento Kings (6-14) at home they played lethargic, lacked energy, and dropped a second straight game against a team that is positioning themselves in the lottery. The Suns are trying to position themselves in the playoffs and to be that caliber team it requires consistently beating teams like the Kings at home, on the road, and in every facet of the game.
Against those teams the Suns are 2-3 on the season (6-4 overall against winning teams) collectively with close losses on their resume.
A win against the Kings puts the Suns just .5 games behind the Division Leading Los Angeles Clippers (14-9) and prove that they are a team with some staying power. This season the talk of the NBA has been how poor the Eastern Conference is compared to the Western Conference, but the reality is the West has a very soft middle. Teams 4-14 are all good, but uniquely flawed to where most would not consider them championship contenders.
Other than the Utah Jazz (5-19) and the Kings (6-14) every team in the West is at least one game under .500 or better on the season. Any mix of 13 teams can make the playoffs at this juncture in the season.
That is why games against the Kings and other lower level teams are important.
This season the Suns are 6-4 against teams with winning records today and 6-5 against teams that are below .500 on the year. Compare that to the 8th Seed in the West last year, the Houston Rockets, they went 22-10 against the teams under .500 and 26-14 against non-playoff teams.
Back to the Suns v. Kings.
It could be the season debut for Rudy Gay in a Kings uniform after being traded five days ago. After he was traded the team introduced him to the fans by having them come down through the crowd The Shield style, through the crowd, and with the comments that advanced stats do not mean everything for a player. They don't.
At the very least the Kings are going to be interesting, athletic, and potentially exciting. DeMarcus Cousins has seemed to make the leap this year playing like a big man, Isaiah Thomas is finally starting, Ben McLemore has been good in spurts, and insert Rudy Gay.
He does not have a lot of fans in the sports community because of his inefficient shooting and style of play, I am certainly not a fan myself, but he can be a 15-20 point scorer night to night for a team that already has a No.1 in Cousins and a No. 2 in Thomas.
The Kings may not have a great record and are trending towards the lottery, but they pose a lot of unique challenges for the Suns every time they square. More on those challenges...
(Recent) History Lesson
0-2 Against the Kings (110.0-105.0 PPG)
It is a tale of free-throws, energy, and learning that you cannot turn it off and on in this league unless you have elite, top tier talent. The Suns do not have that type of talent and found out the hard way as the cellar dweller Kings took full advantage of the Suns lack of drive against them in a home-and-home series. It will take focus to dispatch a young, hungry team with nothing to lose.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)
Suns: 103.69 PPG (6 wins)
Kings: 102.15 PPG (7 wins)
As of late the Kings have dominated the series winning four straight games taking control of the series as of late. In all four wins the Kings are have scored 107+ points in every game scoring at will on the Suns. Even with the Kings in the cellar of the NBA they have the Suns number over the past two seasons...
Potential Kings Inactives: Carl Landry (Left Hip, Out)
"Drafted by the wrong team," is a phrase and concept thrown around here-and-there, but in the case of Derrick Williams it is proving to be very true. In 155 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves (10.1 PPG 4.9 RPG 42.0 FG%) blended into the bench and made no impact. He is making an impact now. During his time in Sacramento, seven games, Williams is averaging 12.9 PPG 5.4 RPG shooting 53.1% from the field.
For Marcus Morris, a player of similar skill and impact, he is finding a home here in Phoenix off the bench as a scorer. Those two will be called upon to score for their respective teams inside-and-out. This season Morris is averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.9 RPG this year for the Suns in a more defined role.
Interesting Stat: 15.0 Free-Throws Per Game
For his career DeMarcus Cousins averages 5.6 FTA per game (239 games) for his career, 5.5 FTA against every team except the Suns (227 games), and 7.8 FTA against the Suns (12 games) through four seasons. This season he has taken his game to the next level averaging 15.0 FTA per game against the Suns with a new-found consistency playing in the paint.
Meaningless Stat: 22.5 PPG 7.0 RPG 6.5 APG 2.0 SPG
Are the Kings going to miss the production of Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes? Unlikely, but this is the overall production from the three against the Suns this year in two games. If Gay, Gray, and Acy play they had an overall impact of 17 points 10 rebounds 3 assists 2 steals (all Gay) in a loss just last week.
For the first time ever, the Phoenix Suns will be streaming live video of a day in the life of a basketball team.
Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes on gameday? Me too. Media is only allowed at certain, short points in the day and the public doesn't get in at all.
Now you can find out. Watch suns.com all day for live streaming.
The first-of-its-kind program will tip-off at 7:30 a.m. and will follow the team all the way up until the Suns' pregame show on FOX Sports Arizona at 6:30 p.m., prior to the Suns' matchup with the Sacramento Kings on "Fan Appreciation Night."
Fans will receive a backstage pass to everything leading up to an NBA game, as cameras follow Suns players to breakfast, through practice, media interviews and treatments in the training room. The webcast will also take viewers into the coaches meetings and the team's locker room, and even into the home of Marcus and Markieff Morris, as their personal chef prepares their favorite pregame meal on Friday afternoon.
Check out suns.com today to see what happens all day long today, in prep for tonight's game. Maybe you'll even see Kris in an unintentional photo bomb.
Tonight is also Fan Appreciation Night - major discounts on apparel, giveaways, etc. Hopefully, the arena will be full.
A look at Suns-related news floating around the internet from the last week. Also an open thread to discuss anything and everything.
In the last week, the Suns only had two games - they were able to cage the Raptors at home with a 106-97 victory and beat the Lakers in Hollywood 114-108. In short, the Suns took care of business.
The win against the Lakers was especially satisfying, both for obvious reasons - beating LA is ALWAYS a pleasant experience - and because it was simply a well-played game by Phoenix. The Suns led for almost the entire game and showed great poise by maintaining their lead and withstanding any run the Lakers attempted to make. This victory was arguably the best road win of the season for Phoenix, and it was made even sweeter by the fact that it came against the Lakers in Kobe Bryant's second game back.
I'd just like to point out something that makes me a very happy Suns fan: Phoenix's backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe is averaging a collective 37.0 points, 12.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds per game. Those fantastic numbers are among the best of all starting backcourts in the NBA. The only other ones that rival the production of DragonBlade/Bledgic/Dragsoe are the "Splash Bros" in Golden State, Steph Curry/Klay Thompson (44.6 points, 11.5 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per game), Portland's duo of Damian Lillard/Wesley Matthews (36.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 8.1 rebounds), and John Wall/Bradley Beal (currently injured) in Washington (40.2 points, 12.6 assists, and 8.6 assists). It should be noted that both Wall and Beal are shooting below 42% from the field this season.
Factoring in overall output and efficiency, one could make a strong case for the Suns having the best starting backcourt in the NBA outside of Oakland, CA. Enjoy it, Suns fans.
Let's now take a look at some random Suns-related content that floated around various parts of the internet this last week.
Most of these power rankings were published earlier in the week, so keep in mind that they haven't accounted for the win against the Lakers.
CBS Sports (Dec. 9) - #10:
By the time you realize this team isn't tanking, they've kicked your ass.
Sports Illustrated (Dec. 9) - #11:
The Suns might have more staying power than we thought. They've won six of nine since a four-game losing streak and they rank in the top 10 in points per possession and net rating. Best of all, Phoenix plays with high energy on a nightly basis, an impressive feat for an inexperienced team playing under a first-year coach in Jeff Hornacek.
ESPN (Dec. 9) - #10:
Eric Bledsoe is back from his shin injury and back in the starting lineup. How he and Goran Dragic fare as a starting twosome will remain a fascination, especially after Dragic just rumbled for an average of 21.2 points and 9.2 assists over a recent six-game stretch that began during EB's absence.
USA Today (Dec. 8) - #13:
(note that the "fact" in the quote below is entirely incorrect. Bledsoe and Dragic lead the team in scoring, while Green and the Morris twins are pretty close in points per game.
Former NBA outcast Gerald Green is second on this team in points.
NBC Sports (Dec. 9) - #11
Eric Bledsoe is back in the lineup, which is good news, but now this far into the season we can just say that Jeff Hornacek has to come up in any coach-of-the-year conversations. His team is playing well at both ends.
Fox Sports (Dec. 9) - #11
The Suns won all three games this week, including road wins against the Rockets and Lakers. Nobody would have guessed that 20 games in, the Suns would have a spot in the top eight out West, ahead of the Warriors, Grizzlies and Timberwolves.
Phoenix is currently 7th in the West (ahead of Golden State, Dallas and Minnesota - who woulda thunk?). If the playoffs were to start today, we'd get yet another Suns-Spurs series.
Last week, Grant Hill revealed on TNT's Inside the NBA that Shaquille O'Neal once put a Suns teammate in a sleeper hold. Hill never revealed who it was after Shaq told him that "snitches get stitches." Earlier this week, AZ Republic's Paul Coro revealed who the victim was: Gordon Giricek - remember him? Click on the link and read the story (it involves Giricek literally passing out).
Eric Bledsoe's tough, buzzer-beating layup against the Lakers:
Twinception: Marcus's alley to Markieff's oop:
Goran Dragic runs circles around the Raptors' defense:
Yet another nickname for Miles Plumlee was introduced this week. @Marco_Romo invented it and Channing Frye approved. This one's my personal favorite: Plumbledore
The Professor Plumbledore nickname inspired me to put my impeccable photoshop skills to use:
This is what happens when no one stops me and my excellent photoshop skills. Goran Dragic and the Half-BLED Prince: pic.twitter.com/2lHyhtqQBw— Sreekar (@sreekyshooter) December 10, 2013
The Phoenix Suns' victory over the Lakers gained a lot of online attention as many people were watching Kobe's second game back from his injury. Suns got a lot of love:
That Kobe dunk looked like pretty much every dunk Michael Jordan had as a Wizard— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) December 11, 2013
JaredDudley&a2ndroundpick just hit two insane layups to end the 3rd quarter. He has 16 & 7. Suns up 79-74.— BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) December 11, 2013
Bledsoe just ran over to Dragic with a huge smile to congratulate him on that layup. That pretty much sums up why I love this @Suns team.— Ben York (@bjyork) December 11, 2013
Last year, 6 Suns players had down seasons statistically. This year, 7 Suns are averaging career highs in points per game. #HornacekEffect— BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) December 11, 2013
Who had the "Warriors, Grizzlies & TWolves will each lose 10 games before the Suns" parlay?— J.A. Adande (@jadande) December 11, 2013
@KyleNehf At least Nuggets had remnants of a playoff team. Suns stripped down a non-playoff team…and got better— J.A. Adande (@jadande) December 11, 2013
All seriousness: Morris twins have been great. Gives Suns two guys to run offense through on their second unit.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) December 11, 2013
If LeBron ever teams up with another young star it will be Eric Bledsoe, not Kyrie. You can see that from miles away.— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) December 11, 2013
I love this Suns team.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 11, 2013
This week's Bright Sider award goes to......................
The Solution Jessica! Who, you ask? None other than The Solution's girlfriend, whose relationship with him apparently represents a sort of barometer for the Phoenix Suns' success. Go check out the whole story in The Solution's quite entertaining fanpost. Congrats, Jessica!
(Just kidding, The Solution - you win. The award is yours. The girl is yours. The world is yours. You can change that signature now).
Any other news you'd like to share? Any suggestions for what else you'd like me to do/include in these weekly segments (I'm open to anything!)? As always, feel free to discuss below!