Preview: Phoenix Suns (5-4) vs. Sacramento Kings (2-7)

Time: 8 p.m. MST






After starting off the season with a win against the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings have been in a free fall, their inertia only being altered by a victory against a struggling Brooklyn Nets team. The Kings have lost seven of their last eight, and they’ve already reached the point of talking about effort being the issue. As bad as the Suns were last season, it took quite a while for that to become a recurring theme.

Sacramento’s offense has been short of average, and the defense has done nothing to keep coach Mike Malone’s team in games. Only one game out of the Kings’ seven losses has been a two-possession game or less.

So in our book, Phoenix should be considered the favorite on the road Tuesday night. After falling two games in a row and in painful fashion at that, forward P.J. Tucker said on Friday after losing to the Nets that he wished the Suns played a game Saturday. Maybe the pent up frustration will do the Suns some good. That’s not to mention Phoenix could benefit from a good deal of time off used to fix the offensive woes it exhibited in the last few games.

Will Ben McLemore make Suns fans complain about Alex Len?

If I may, let’s get one thing out of the way. It’s fine to worry about Alex Len’s health, but it’s not fine to call the Suns’ draft pick a huge flub-up because fellow rookie Ben McLemore, who the Suns could have drafted instead, goes off for 25 points on Tuesday. The reason NBA teams favor big men: Their impact goes beyond the flash and it goes beyond their scoring output. You can have a guy scoring 25 points per game on a bad team, but it doesn’t have the impact that even a raw Len could have if he played 15 minutes per. Now, that’s only if Len can get back on the court from his injury issues.

Example: Kings center DeMarcus Cousins may be averaging 21 points and nine rebounds a game, but until he decides to become a rock in the middle, Sacramento ain’t going anywhere.

So feel free to worry about Len and his health. Just don’t do so citing any big game by McLemore, who is averaging 7.4 points per game and shooting a Kendall Marshall-esque 38 percent from the field.

Does Eric Bledsoe look more comfortable alongside a healthy Goran Dragic?

The most concerning part of the Suns’ loss on Friday wasn’t about late-game execution. It was about that lull that allowed the Nets to get back into the game, and Bledsoe seemingly was at the heart of it. Whether he’s thinking too much playing off the ball or trying too hard alongside Dragic, he looked tentative in his moves. But when it comes down to it, he need not play differently on the ball or off, and therein lies the worry for Phoenix.

No matter how you slice it at this point, the Suns are better off with Dragic running the show. As good as Bledsoe has been as the lone point guard, he has noticeably been the biggest problem when it comes to one of Hornacek’s repeated complaints — the Suns aren’t running enough. Phoenix is jogging up the court, especially off makes, and Hornacek has wondered aloud whether it has to do with conditioning or otherwise.

To be fair to Bledsoe , the big men also have to grab the ball and get it inbounds as fast as possible. And Dragic hasn’t been great at pushing the tempo 100 percent of the time either.

The Suns will benefit from Bledsoe and Dragic playing in attack mode at the same time, which they arguably haven’t done since the season-opener against Portland.

How do the power forwards play?

Weird stat from the Brooklyn game that actually makes sense: Channing Frye’s plus-minus of plus-19 was nine points better than any of his Suns teammates. Marcus Morris and Gerald Green had the next highest plus-minus scores for the game, which all goes back to the Suns answering Brooklyn’s 20-0 run with that trio subbing in early in the third quarter.

Frye hit 4-of-8 shots and had a good look for the game-winner. He finished with 13 points but also held his own defensively. Meanwhile, Markieff Morris continued his slide following his Western Conference Player of the Week honor. Can he bounce back from a 1-for-9 performance? And will Frye’s confidence grow as an integral part of both sides of the ball?

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