What a difference a division makes.

In the midst of their longest losing streak in almost nine years, the last-place Sacramento Kings (14-21) try to snap their skid at six games against a Toronto Raptors (18-21) team that also has 21 losses - but sits atop the Atlantic in first place.

The Kings got off to a middling start under new coach Eric Musselman, but while their recent struggles would be par for the course in the mediocre Eastern Conference, a collapse over their last half-dozen games have dropped them into the basement of the Pacific.

Sacramento's latest setback was a 102-97 loss at New York on Monday. The team's two biggest stars, Mike Bibby and Ron Artest, exemplified the club's struggles, each shooting 4-for-15 from the field.

The Kings had a five-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks held them scoreless for more than four minutes and Artest missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer on the team's final possession.

"It felt real good coming off, but sometimes it just don't fall," Artest said. "I'm sure the next time I'm in the situation again, I'm sure it'll go down. We had a chance to win. We're going to get it together."

The six-game losing streak is the club's longest since it closed the 1997-98 season by dropping seven straight. It lost 19 of its last 20 games that year, finishing with a 27-55 record. That was the last time the team did not make the playoffs.

Its recent stretch has seen a number of close finishes, including three overtime losses and four defeats by five points or fewer. Aside from closing out games, defense has been another problem: The Kings have allowed just over 110 points per game during the skid.

Toronto comes into the game on the flip side of the standings - and playing well. The Raptors have won five of their last seven and, since getting off to a 2-8 start, have turned their season around by going 16-13 to lift them to the top of the NBA's weakest division.

Star forward Chris Bosh, who missed 12 games with a left knee injury, has scored 20 points or more in seven of eight games since his return to the lineup and is shooting 53.6 percent from the field since coming back.

The team's recent success has instilled a new sense of confidence. The Raptors haven't made the playoffs since Vince Carter was donning the purple in 2002, but if the postseason started today, they would be the conference's fourth seed.

"We're at a point where we feel like we can win every game," Bosh said.

The schedule will certainly help them in the near future. Toronto will be opening a season-long five-game homestand and it plays nine of its next 11 at the Air Canada Centre, where it is 10-6 so far this season.

The Kings, meanwhile, are just 4-10 on the road.

"We've definitely got to take advantage of this home stretch," said Anthony Parker, who is averaging 14.4 points this month. "Our goal is to get on a roll. We're not coming in looking past anybody. We want to get some momentum heading into the All-Star game."

In the teams' first meeting this season, the Kings won 107-92 in Sacramento on Nov. 12. The trio of Kevin Martin, Bibby and Artest combined for 70 points in the victory. The Kings are 15-6 all-time against Toronto, and they have won 11 of their last 14 meetings.

Brad Miller, who has missed the last two games for personal reasons, is expected to make his return to the Sacramento lineup.

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