The Phoenix Suns got off to a sluggish start on the heels of their surprise appearance in the NBA Finals.
But now the Suns are finding their stride, and they look to notch their fifth consecutive victory when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
Phoenix fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s title round and seemed to be caught in a Finals hangover when it dropped three of its first four games — the last game in the stretch being a 110-107 home loss to the Kings.
But the Suns recovered to win the final four contests of the five-game homestand. The latest was Saturday’s 121-117 win over Atlanta when Phoenix outscored the Hawks 35-19 in the final period.
“I think (Saturday’s game), to me at least, was the closest thing to a full game that we’ve put together,” Suns guard Landry Shamet told reporters.
Star guard Devin Booker had his top outing of the season with 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting. He also made a season high five 3-pointers.
Booker is 9 of 17 from 3-point range over the past two games after beginning the season in a 10 of 36 rut.
He is averaging 28.2 points over the past five games to raise his season mark to 24.5. He had 31 in the first meeting against Sacramento.
Phoenix will be without center Deandre Ayton (leg) for the third time in the past four games.
During the two previous games Ayton missed, the Suns received stellar efforts from backup big man Frank Kaminsky.
Kaminsky scored a season-best 17 points in 29 minutes during a 112-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Two games later, he had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting against the Hawks.
“You’ve got to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready,” Booker told reporters. “That’s Frank.”
Kaminsky even had four assists against the Hawks and has seven in 73 minutes this season.
“I’m not the most athletic guy in the world — I don’t think that’s a secret,” Kaminsky said. “But I’ve always been able to affect the game with my mind and how I see things. It’s always been a strength of mine.”
The Kings are closing a four-game homestand. They are 2-1 after falling 94-91 to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
Sacramento trailed by two late in the contest, but Tyrese Haliburton missed a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left, and Indiana held on.
“Tyrese with an open 3 for game at the end, I’ll take that in any close game,” Kings coach Luke Walton said afterward. “We know we have a long way to go still. This one hurts.”
Harrison Barnes scored 22 points, but Indiana’s 54-33 rebounding advantage was too tough to overcome.
Also, the Kings were just 10 of 34 from 3-point range after setting a franchise record with 22 treys in a 140-110 rout of the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.
Barnes, a 10-year veteran, is well aware what a pattern of up-and-down performances typically means.
“The difference between us being a good team and not a playoff team is our consistency,” Barnes said.
Point guard De’Aaron Fox shares that viewpoint.
“When we play our game, we have the advantage,” the speedy Fox said. “Some of the games we haven’t finished so far.”
Barnes scored 22 points and drained the decisive 3-pointer just prior to the buzzer in the game in Phoenix on Oct. 27.
–Field Level Media