While the Phoenix Suns are coming off two heartbreaking losses, they remain confident thanks to an overall strong start.
The slumping Sacramento Kings, in contrast, appear to be running out of answers.
The visiting Suns try to get back on track Tuesday night when they open a home-and-home set against the Kings.
Phoenix (5-4) won five of its first seven games before letting a pair of victories slip away last week. After giving up a go-ahead layup with seven seconds left in Wednesday's 90-89 loss at Portland, the Suns suffered a 100-98 overtime defeat to Brooklyn two nights later on Joe Johnson's buzzer-beating layup.
"They made the tough shot. We didn't," guard Goran Dragic told the team's official website. "But that is part of the sport. We lost two in a row in the last five seconds, but we know we are playing well against those good teams."
Dragic had 19 points and 10 assists and P.J. Tucker scored 17 for the Suns, who are exceeding expectations after going 25-57 last season.
"I think it is a sign that the team cares about the game and everyone else on the team and the coaching staff," said Eric Bledsoe, who leads the team with 20.4 points per game. "Everyone comes in to work and that is all that you can ask for.
"We are playing hard. Those games will come back in our favor but we just have to keep playing."
The Suns may be able to bounce back against the Kings (2-7), who have dropped seven of eight since beating Denver in their season opener.
Sacramento, which averages 93.0 points to rank near the bottom of the NBA, was held to 90 or fewer for the fifth time in Sunday's 97-86 loss to Memphis. The Kings were outrebounded 49-35 and allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 55.6 percent.
"We can't give forth the effort we (did) tonight if we want to compete against a team like that," coach Mike Malone said.
DeMarcus Cousins, averaging team highs of 21.2 points and 9.4 boards, had nine and five in 18 minutes. He and the other starters, with the exception of Luc Mbah a Moute, were benched over the final 19 1/2 minutes.
Travis Outlaw had 18 points and fellow reserve Isaiah Thomas scored 15 for Sacramento, which shot 37.9 percent from the floor and has yet to shoot better than 46.2 percent in any game.
"Once again I thought our offense dictated our defense," point guard Greivis Vasquez said. "We just have to be more mature and understand if we don't make shots we have to put out effort defensively."
In its seven losses, Sacramento's opponents have compiled a 1.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Kings had dropped five straight to the Suns before taking the last two matchups, 121-112 on March 8 and 117-103 at Phoenix on March 28. Cousins put up a combined 56 points on 21-of-29 shooting and 28 rebounds in those wins while Thomas averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 assists.
Cousins is averaging 24.8 points in six home games in the series, well above his career mark of 16.5.
Dragic, averaging 10.6 assists over a five-game stretch against Sacramento, had 17 points, 16 assists and a career high-tying five steals March 28.
While the Suns are 4-1 at home, they have dropped three of four on the road.
These teams meet again Wednesday in Phoenix.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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