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Kings vs. Suns Preview: When Tanks Collide

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The Kings face a team that’s a little farther along in the rebuild process.

Kimani Okearah

The Sacramento Kings broke an eight-game losing streak on Monday, just barely scraping by the Orlando Magic. Tonight they’re on the road, but once again facing one of the few teams with a record lower than their own. Like the Kings, the Suns are a team embracing a youth movement, but they’re farther along in their rebuild. Unlike the Magic, who have a bevy of bigs and wings, the Suns are stacked with guards, much like Sacramento, so the matchups will be very interesting.

The last time these two teams met, Devin Booker caught fire in the second half and led the Phoenix Suns to victory in Sacramento with a tough game winner off the glass at the buzzer.

Sacramento’s a much different team now, and the stakes are much lower. At that time, the Kings were still trying to compete for the 8th spot. Now they’re just playing for pride and lottery balls, something the Suns have been basically doing all season.

This is a matchup where we could see a lot of small ball. The Suns aren’t devoid of big men, but with Tyson Chandler away from the team dealing with a personal matter and rookie Dragan Bender still recovering from an ankle injury, Alex Len is the only real big man they have. Rookie Marquese Chriss, who the Kings selected at #8 before trading him to Phoenix, plays PF, but much like Sacramento’s Skal Labissiere, lacks the strength of a typical NBA big man.

This should be a good test for Sacramento’s young guys. Devin Booker is someone that Buddy Hield should take notes from, and I’m looking forward to seeing how those two matchup with each other. Defensively, it will be a challenge for Hield, but it’s one he needs to embrace. He also needs to go at Booker on the other end, as right now Booker’s essentially an offense-only player.

One big question for the Kings is who they plan to play. On Monday, the team sat Kosta Koufos, Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson and Tyreke Evans in order to give the young guys more minutes (and perhaps to increase the chances of losing to the Magic). Will the team rest different players tonight like Darren Collison, Garrett Temple and Anthony Tolliver? Or will the Kings simply play with their full roster?

Whatever the case, the young guys will still probably see big minutes. Skal Labissiere, who has struggled a little bit when going up against bigger, stronger players, actually might be bigger and stronger than a guy like Marquese Chriss. Willie Cauley-Stein will have his hands full with the big and skilled Len, but he should also make him pay on the other end with his quickness.

This will be a good test for the Kings, and also perhaps their best chance to win for quite a while, as their next seven games all take place against teams projected to be in the playoffs.

Tip-off’s at 7 p.m. Pacific. Go Kings!