Suns-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 10, 2012
After a win over the Western Conference leaders in their last game, the Sacramento Kings are feeling positive about the direction their young team is headed. The Kings look to win their fourth straight at home Saturday night when they take on the Phoenix Suns. Sacramento is in the midst of its best stretch of the season, winning four of five, and is coming off a 106-101 victory over West-leading Oklahoma City on Thursday. Tyreke Evans scored 22 points while DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and nine rebounds. The Kings (10-16) scored 28 points off 23 turnovers and had 17 offensive rebounds. It was the third time in four games they topped 100 points after reaching that mark just twice in the previous 22 games. "We've improved as a team, we're on the right path now," Cousins said. "We're a lot better than our record shows. We've grown so much from the team we used to be." Cousins and Evans have both taken steps forward under coach Keith Smart. Cousins, who clashed with Paul Westphal before he was fired Jan. 5, is averaging 19.5 points and 14.8 rebounds over the last four games. Evans has averaged 21.4 points in the last seven games after putting up 15.9 per game to start the season. "We're trying to build. These two guys are the stones right now," Smart said. "Now they're young and they get excited, but ... if they can keep this process up, we're going to get there." Sacramento, which improved to 7-4 at home with Thursday's win, has won three consecutive home games for the first time since a four-game run Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2009. The Kings have yet to face Phoenix this season but have won three straight meetings after losing 17 of the previous 19. While Sacramento is feeling confident about its direction, the Suns (11-15) may have come away from their last game feeling like they took a step back. After winning three straight while averaging 100.3 points, Phoenix lost 96-89 at home to Houston on Thursday. The Suns were held to 13 points in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded 44-31. "Such a winnable game for us," said Steve Nash, who had 13 assists and averages a league-best 10.1. "We didn't convert in so many areas, so it makes it a really disappointing loss. You're going to have cold patches but you've got to find other ways to stay in the game." The loss spoiled an otherwise good day for Nash, who was named to the All-Star team for the eighth time and became just the fourth player at age 38 or older to make it. Sacramento has certainly been witness to Nash's consistency over the years. In the last 10 games between the teams, he's averaged 23.9 points and 12.6 assists. While the Suns have struggled at home, they are playing better on the road, winning two straight and three of four. Phoenix will play its next three on the road. "We're going to continue to work hard, go on this road trip and do the best we can," said Channing Frye, who had a season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds Thursday. Frye has made nine 3-pointers over the past three games after an eight-game stretch during which he went 4 for 23 from beyond the arc.
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