Suns, Kings jockey for playoff positioning in West
Kevin Durant's ballyhooed home debut didn't happen Wednesday due to an ankle injury and the Phoenix Suns' midseason acquisition will miss the rest of the month.
That leaves Durant watching from the sideline when the Suns host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday in a Western Conference showdown.
The Suns said Thursday that Durant will be re-evaluated in three weeks and there is chatter he could miss the rest of the regular season. Phoenix's final game is April 9 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Durant was superb in his first three games with the Suns -- all on the road -- by shooting 69 percent (29 of 42) from the field and averaging 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
The loss of Durant comes at a time Phoenix is meshing well with four straight victories and 16 in 21 games. But the Suns were still hoping to get fully comfortable with Durant on the floor as they prepare for a postseason run.
"Obviously, Kev is a huge part of our team," point guard Chris Paul said. "Anytime he's not out there or other guys in our rotation, we're gonna make do, but in order to really see what it looks like consistently, we gotta try and get our guys (on the floor)."
The Suns put on a show on Wednesday without Durant as they routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 132-101. But coach Monty Williams noticed there was no joy on Durant's face.
"I feel bad for him because he feels bad," Williams said afterward. "I saw his face and -- I've been around him so many times -- I know what he's feeling, and I don't want him feeling that way at all."
Star guard Devin Booker scored 44 points on 17-for-23 shooting and has put up at least 35 in four consecutive games. He is averaging 38 points during the stretch.
The Suns (37-29) have moved into fourth place in the West but have their sights set on landing the No. 2 seed. Sacramento (39-26) and the Memphis Grizzlies enter Friday sharing that spot.
The Kings have won seven of their past eight games after beating the visiting New York Knicks 122-117 on Thursday.
Domantas Sabonis recorded 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his ninth triple-double of the season while raising his league-leading, double-double count to 53. Fellow All-Star De'Aaron Fox scored 15 of his 23 points in the final period.
"We just give the ball to Foxy," Sabonis said of the Kings' fourth-quarter offense. "I take it out of bounds, I'm not even past halfcourt and he's already getting a layup or a dunk. So props to him, he's been amazing for us all year."
Sacramento coach Mike Brown will be observing one facet closely against the Suns. He didn't like that the Knicks had a 58-42 rebounding advantage and owned a 23-6 edge on the offensive boards.
"That's not how we should be playing basketball," Brown said. "I am not happy with the way that we played ... 23 offensive rebounds. Happy about the win, but that does not sit well with me at all. If we don't fix that, we're going to get our behinds kicked come playoff time. That's when the big boys show up."
Sacramento is well on its way to ending his 16-season playoff drought, the longest current stretch among the four major professional sports. The Kings are just three wins away from clinching their first winning campaign since 2005-06, also the season of their last playoff appearance.
Booker averaged 38 points as Phoenix defeated Sacramento twice earlier this season.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 10, 2023