Preview: Phoenix Suns (11-15) at Sacramento Kings (10-16)

Phoenix Suns 98, Sacramento Kings 84



PHOENIX — Odd as it sounds, a three-game road trip might be just what the doctor ordered for the Phoenix Suns.

With a better winning percentage on the road (6-8) than at home (5-7), the Suns might benefit from a three-game road trip that begins tonight against the Sacramento Kings.

“I think with new faces, new guys, us getting away … you hang out more, you bond a little more,” guard Jared Dudley said. “I don’t know, maybe you sleep a little better on the road when you don’t have kids and wives. Hopefully we can continue because we have three big road games coming up.”

Head coach Alvin Gentry knows that a decent road record means nothing if Phoenix can’t win in US Airways Center. His players still haven’t played well with consistency, and he’s hoping this road trip can set fire to their play at home.

“You can’t be a sub-.500 team at home and make the playoffs,” Gentry said. “I’ve never heard of that.”

Yet, the Suns found offensive cohesion in their recent three-game winning streak, and it’s arguable that remained in the 96-89 loss to the Rockets on Thursday. It was rebounding that ultimately lost the game for Phoenix, and it wasn’t just giving up 22 second-chance points to the Rockets. That poor rebounding also affected the Suns’ own scoring, especially from their bench unit.

En route to a 15-point second quarter, the Suns scored three points in the first seven minutes of the period during Thursday’s loss to Houston. Again in the fourth, Phoenix’s offense went stale.

They scored only 13 points in the last 12 minutes.

“You can’t do that,” Gentry said. “It’s hard for us to win if we’re going to get 28 points in the second and fourth quarters. We give up 50 and score 28. That doesn’t add up.”

Michael Redd has been the only consistent scorer off the bench for the Suns, scoring in double-digits in the last three games. Meanwhile, no other Phoenix bench player has hit the 10-point mark.

Scoring has been a problem, and Josh Childress said the solution lies on the other end of the floor.

“I think what we have to do is really focus on getting out of the half court,” Childress said, “and getting into the up-tempo, pushing the limits defensively. Just causing havoc. We’re stuck in the half court game, we’re not hitting shots, we’re not scoring.”

Three keys for Phoenix

Taking Sac seriously. I know, I know. Any NBA team can beat any other NBA team on any given night. I know the Kings have a 10-16 record. They are 26th in the NBA in offensive rating and 27th in defensive rating. But Sactown is on the rise behind their talented young roster and invigorating first-year coach Keith Smart. DeMarcus Cousins is a double-double waiting to happen, Tyreke Evans can score in downpours, and the Kings have won four of their last five — and two of those wins came against Portland and Oklahoma City.

Bring the help. Outside of DeMarcus Cousins, most of the Kings’ scoring comes from their backcourt. None of the four guards that play the most minutes — Evans, Marcus Thornton, and rookies Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas — shoot above 41.5 percent from the field. That means the Suns can probably get away with over-helping, as they’d rather crowd the lane (and Cousins while they’re at it) and let the Kings’ guards take jumpers instead of allowing them to get to the rim.

Managing minutes. After the Sacramento game, Phoenix has a day of rest before playing three games in three days. Dudley said he hadn’t played a schedule that stacked since competing in conference tournaments at Boston College. So how Gentry deals with dolling out minutes tonight will be noteworthy, as it could affect a brutal three-game stretch thereafter.

“We’re still in the process of figuring out what to do,” Gentry said, adding that their decision-making will come one game at a time. “I’ll also talk to Steve and Grant and Michael and see how they want to approach it.”

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