One of Phoenix’s only four home losses this season came to Sacramento on Nov. 13 in the lone meeting of the season between these West powers. The only other team in the conference the Suns have yet to beat is San Antonio, having lost both meetings.
The Kings are entering this matchup five games behind division-leading Phoenix, which is one-half game behind the Spurs for the league’s best record.
While the Suns’ star trio is looking for a second straight dominant performance, the Kings hope having three of their top players back in action for a second consecutive game can lead to a win.
Amare Stoudemire had 32 points and 15 rebounds, Steve Nash added 26 points and 14 assists, and Shawn Marion had 23 points and 10 boards to lead Phoenix to a 114-106 comeback victory over New York on Saturday. The Suns trailed 81-79 after three quarters before opening the fourth with an 11-0 run en route to their first season sweep of the Knicks since 1994-95.
“We had to pick up our intensity,” Marion said. “We just got a little more aggressive. We were lethargic (early). When we got more energy, we were all right. In the fourth quarter, we got some loose balls, it started going our way and we opened up the game a little.”
The Kings had their starting lineup intact for the first time in seven games Saturday but lost 114-108 at Portland. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Cuttino Mobley all returned from injuries, but Sacramento appeared out of sync for much of the game.
Webber, who missed four games with a sore left knee, had a triple-double with 20 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, but Stojakovic and Mobley struggled.
After missing six contests because of back spasms, Stojakovic returned to score 15 points, but shot just 4-of-13 from the floor. Mobley, who missed two with back spasms, shot 1-of-7 for three points.
“We didn’t have any rhythm and the three guys coming back from a week without them,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “They took advantage of us.”
Mike Bibby had 35 points after scoring a career-best 40 in Friday’s 116-115 comeback victory over New York.
He’ll be opposed by Nash, who has provided a huge spark since missing roughly 3 1/2 games due to injury. The Suns had their three lowest point totals of the season with their point guard on the sidelines, but have averaged 117.1 points in eight games since his return.
Phoenix has won seven of those contests after averaging just 96 points during a six-game slide from Jan. 12-21.
Seven of the Suns’ next 13 games will be against teams among the top six in the West—Sacramento, Seattle, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston—and two others are against division leaders Boston and Detroit.
This is the beginning of a tough three-game stretch for the Kings, who visit Seattle on Thursday and host Dallas on Friday.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 6): Suns - 1st place, Pacific Division. Kings - 2nd place, 5 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Stoudemire, 26.1 ppg; Marion, 10.8 rpg; Nash, 11.1 apg. Kings - Webber, 21.6 ppg and 9.6 rpg; Bibby, 6.3 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Kings, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 13; Kings, 113-111. At Phoenix, Webber had 28 points and 10 rebounds to help Sacramento rebound from a 30-point loss to Seattle three nights earlier. Stoudemire and Nash had 29 points apiece for the Suns.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Suns - 20-7 on the road; Kings - 19-6 at home.