Sacramento (1-4) at Phoenix (4-1)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
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  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Sat Nov 13, 2004
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If the Phoenix Suns want to be considered one of the elite teams in the NBA, consistently beating the Sacramento Kings would be a good step.

Phoenix tries to rebound from its first loss of the season when it returns to America West Arena to face the struggling Kings.

With a 19-point lead entering the fourth quarter Wednesday at Cleveland, the Suns appeared well on their way to their first 5-0 start in 20 years. LeBron James and the Cavaliers, however, had other ideas and staged a remarkable comeback to force overtime, where they outscored the Suns 15-10 for a 114-109 victory.

Shawn Marion scored 22 points, Quentin Richardson had 21 and Amare Stoudemire 20 for Phoenix, which had won each of its first four games by double digits.

“We pretty much had the game,” Suns center Steven Hunter said. “We were dominating them. To let them come back, we cheated ourselves out of a 5-0 start.”

As disappointing as the loss was, a victory over the division rival Kings would give the Suns their first 5-1 start since they won seven of their first eight games in 2000-01.

Phoenix has struggled against Sacramento recently, losing three of four meetings last season and 11 of the past 16.

Steve Nash had 15 points and 17 assists Wednesday, and is one of the several Suns off to an impressive start.

He leads the NBA with 10.2 assists per game, while Stoudemire (24.0 ppg) and Marion (10.0 rpg) are among the league leaders in scoring and rebounding, respectively. Phoenix is the NBA’s highest-scoring team, averaging 107.0 points per game.

While the Suns have exceeded expectations in the season’s first two weeks, the Kings have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments.

Sacramento, a 50-plus win team the last four years, has lost four of its first five games with all the losses coming on the road. The 1-4 start matches its worst since 1997-98, the last time it missed the playoffs.

The Kings begin a five-game homestand Sunday against Denver.

“Hopefully, the schedule will start catching up to some sort of sanity for us,” forward Chris Webber said.

A 108-78 loss at Seattle on Wednesday was by far Sacramento’s worst performance of the season, and its worst defeat since a 117-83 loss to New Jersey on Feb. 4, 2002.

Brad Miller scored 17 points and Peja Stojakovic added 16, but Webber was limited to 11 points on 2-for-13 shooting.

“We were so poor offensively,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “We never went (beyond) one pass. We never really had any energy or quickness, and (still) we were down (just) 14 at halftime. We have to come with a better effort.”

STANDINGS (through Nov. 11): Kings - 4th place, 3 GB, Pacific Division. Suns - 1st place, Pacific Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Kings - F Stojakovic, F Webber, C Miller, G Mike Bibby, G Doug Christie. Suns - F Joe Johnson, F Marion, C Stoudemire, G Nash, G Richardson.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Webber, 18.2 ppg and 10.0 rpg; Bibby, 6.4 apg. Suns - Stoudemire, 24.0 ppg; Marion, 10.0 rpg; Nash, 10.2 apg.

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Kings, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: April 9; Suns, 101-96. At Phoenix, Johnson made consecutive 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter and finished with 24 points to lead the Suns.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 0-4 on the road. Suns - 1-0 at home.

INJURIES: Kings - G Courtney Alexander (foot). Suns - G Yuta Tabuse (quadricep); G Leandro Barbosa (ankle); F Zarko Caparkaba (knee).

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