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Kings vs. Suns Preview: Let’s get down to business, to defeat the Suns

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The Kings face an inferior opponent missing their star player.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a blowout win over the Orlando Magic at home, the Kings are traveling to Phoenix to face the struggling Suns. Devin Booker won’t be dressing for the game, meaning Dave Joerger’s squad should have a much easier time against the worst team in the Western Conference.

When: Tuesday, January 8th, 6:00 PM PST

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The largest challenge facing the Kings tonight may not be the Suns, but rather their schedule. The youngest superteam in the league struggles mightily when given no rest, going just 3-5 on the second night of back-to-backs. They’ve also won both games when facing that schedule quirk just one time. The good news is that the Suns aren’t particularly good, sporting the second-worst record in the entire NBA, and Devin Booker’s absence makes a bad team even worse. Phoenix has won just one game without their star shooting guard this season, going 1-9 when he sits on the sideline. They’ve also lost 8 of their last 9 games after winning four in a row earlier this year. Tonight’s contest isn’t necessarily a must-win, but rather a should-win.

The Kings should be able to score with ease against the Suns’ porous defense. Phoenix gives up the fourth-most points per game (115.1), and also struggle to put the ball in the bucket themselves, averaging just 106.3 points. De’Aaron Fox won’t face much resistance against the opposing starting point guard, as the Suns don’t have a quality option available, and the paint should be his to own as well. Phoenix surrenders the most points in the paint (53.1) and the third-most fast break points (16). If the Kings’ guards can stay aggressive in the open court, a victory should be within easy reach.

The marquee match-up tonight will be the number one overall pick vs. the number two overall pick in the 2018 draft. (Scratch that, Bagley is being held out as a precautionary move.) Deandre Ayton is a beast down-low, averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds, but the Booker-less Suns have an incredibly difficult time getting him clean looks in the paint with their lack of reliable post-entry passes. Willie Cauley-Stein found a great amount of success fronting Ayton just over a month ago, recording 5 steals on the way to an easy Kings win. That simple strategy mostly neutered Ayton’s impact, as the star rookie scored just 10 points on 8 shots back in early December.

Marvin Bagley will not be making his season debut against Deandre Ayton, as the Kings are being cautious with the young big man after he came back from an 11 game absence yesterday. He did not suffer a setback and will play on Thursday against the Pistons, but it’s disappointing that we’re once again deprived of this matchup.

Prediction

De’Aaron Fox dominates the paint and Willie Cauley-Stein runs circles around and through the Suns’ defense. The Kings walk away with an easy victory, while Skal Labissiere scores 32 points and grabs 11 boards to reignite the excitement around his potential.

Kings 119, Suns 106