Defensive-minded Suns host skidding Kings

NBA Basketball

The Phoenix Suns will aim to continue their blistering success when they host the struggling Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

The Suns have won three straight games and 13 of their past 15 and own the second-best NBA record (39-15) behind the Utah Jazz (41-14). Sacramento, meanwhile, has lost eight straight for its second-longest skid of the season.

Phoenix is 3-0 on a five-game homestand and fresh off Tuesday’s 106-86 trouncing of the Miami Heat.

The Suns limited Miami to 16 points in the second quarter and 14 in the fourth.

“Our best offense is our defense,” Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges said. “Just getting out in transition, getting open shots, driving and getting to the rim. … It makes you play more confident when you know that you get stops on defense.”

Phoenix’s unselfish team play was on display against the Heat as the bench scored 65 points.

Deandre Ayton (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Devin Booker (12 points on 4-of-16 shooting) were the lone Phoenix starters to score in double digits. The bench had four as Cameron Johnson scored 15, Torrey Craig and Cameron Payne tallied 14 apiece, and Dario Saric added 13. Jevon Carter fell just short with nine points.

The Suns’ Chris Paul had nine assists but just five points. He wasn’t surprised at how the game played out.

“We have a team. Like a real team,” Paul said of the strong bench play. “We lean on each other and trust each other.”

Paul also had three steals to move into fifth place on the all-time list with 2,311. He passed four-time All-Star Maurice Cheeks (2,310 from 1978-93).

The Suns and Kings split two games in Sacramento in late December before it was evident Phoenix would be one of the NBA’s top teams.

The Kings (22-33) again are one of the league’s worst teams and are on their way to missing the playoffs for the 15th straight season.

Sacramento dropped a 123-111 home decision to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night for its sixth double-digit loss during the eight-game skid.

Another loss would match the Kings’ nine-game slide from February as the worst of the season.

The Kings allowed 42 first-quarter points and trailed by as many as 19 in the latest setback. Sacramento scored 38 points off 26 Washington turnovers and still couldn’t make it a game.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, and you’re losing by 15 all game,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “It’s tough right now. It’s really tough.”

Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox had a solid all-around game against Washington as he recorded 33 points, five rebounds, six assists and matched his career best of six steals. It marked Fox’s 16th 30-point outing of the season, including four in the past five contests.

Buddy Hield added 19 points and Harrison Barnes contributed 18 points and seven rebounds.

Sacramento big man Richaun Holmes missed the Washington game with a strained right hamstring and didn’t travel with the team for the two-game trip to Phoenix and Dallas. The Kings will play the Mavericks on Sunday.

“Clearly, we’ll miss him,” Walton said. “He’s had an incredible year so far for us, and he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do.”

–Field Level Media

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