Jan 23, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; The referee separates Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) and Phoenix Suns power forward Luis Scola (14) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Phoenix Suns defeated the Sacramento Kings 106-96. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns (21-40) vs. Sacramento Kings (21-42) Preview

The Phoenix Suns continued their usual narrative as they had a three-game winning streak against pretty good teams then lost at home by almost 30 to a lottery team the next game. The inconsistency is frustrating, despite being expected, because of the makeup of this team and its lack of star power. The team will probably do even worse with the recent events.

Suns starting center Marcin Gortat had an MRI done Thursday that revealed a midfoot sprain, sidelining him for three to four weeks, said The Associated Press. He hurt his foot Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, and since the Suns aren’t going anywhere near the postseason, they might have Gortat miss the rest of the season.

While injuries are horrible physically and emotionally for each individual player that suffers one, this particular one is good for the future of the franchise. With the playoffs out of reach the Suns should have two goals that follow from each other. Get the young guys playing time, and because of that they will lose enough games to receive a great draft pick in the off-season. This unfortunate injury does just that.

With Gortat out for a while and Jermaine O’Neal absent from the team for his daughter’s heart surgery, newly acquired 7’2” Hamed Haddadi will get his chance to play and management will get their chance to see what he has. Also, when Haddadi has to sit due to foul trouble or rest, the Suns can experiment with small-ball, including Markieff Morris and Luis Scola at the center position.

That second line-up could include: Kendall Marshall (6’4”), Wesley Johnson (6’7”), Marcus Morris (6’9”), Michael Beasley (6’10”) and Markieff Morris (6’10”). That set of players currently won’t win very much, but they will get some invaluable experience. Additionally, they are only giving up an inch of height with this lineup because Gortat and O’Neal are both 6’11”.

ESPN has Sacramento favored to win by seven points Friday against the Suns, probably due to the fact of Gortat’s injury, since the Suns have a slightly better overall record.

If the Suns read my articles this lineup could be used in tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings, which I can only imagine will be a terrible game full of sloppy play and bad decisions.

Keys to the game: Suns

  •  Jump on the Kings early. They are the only team, along with the New Orleans Hornets, that are worse than Phoenix in the Western Conference and the Kings won’t have any fight left in they fall into a big deficit early in the game.
  •  Push the tempo, but get back in transition defense, and grab those rebounds. The small-ball lineups will have to be used and they allow Phoenix to push the ball up the court faster in transition, but they also don’t want the Kings doing the same to them, so they have to get back on defense. Also, a small-ball unit will have trouble crashing the glass, so they have to box everybody out and do it as a team.

Keys to the game: Kings

  • Take advantage of the Suns lack of size. They need to get DeMarcus Cousins engaged in the game, because when he is, he is formidable, especially when Phoenix doesn’t really have anybody to stop him from making a big impact in this game.
  •  Lock down! Sacramento is last in the league in opponent’s points per game, giving up 104.9 points this season. If they want to win, they will have to slow the game down slightly, and wrestle down low in the post.

X-Factor!

  •   Just DeMarcus Cousins. If he plays well and takes advantage of his massive size (6’11” 270 lbs) he can dominate and maybe have 35 points and 20 rebounds. If he can’t force himself on the Phoenix defense, the Suns will win.

Match-up to watch:

  • Jared Dudley versus Tyreke Evans. This match-up is interesting, because Evans was the rookie of the year in 2010, but since hasn’t shown any more growth. It seems like he has hit his ceiling as a player. Dudley also hasn’t played spectacularly recently with a low field goal percentage and has gotten less minutes lately so that younger guys can get a chance. We will see how they do tonight.

Tags: Basketball NBA Phoenix Suns Sacramento Kings Sports

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