Fatigue slowed down the Phoenix Suns' offense, but Ron Artest may not get a chance to.
Coming off a rare subpar scoring effort, the Suns may avoid one of the league's top defenders when they continue their season series with the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.
After beating the Los Angeles Clippers 108-88 on Thursday night, Phoenix (21-9) completed a home-and-home series sweep with a 94-88 home win the next day despite looking sluggish on offense. It was the Suns' first win in six games when scoring less than 100 points this season.
Now, Phoenix will face a struggling Sacramento (11-17) team that may not be without Artest, who sat out a 92-80 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night due to a chipped bone in his right elbow. Artest was scheduled to be examined Saturday to see the extent of the injury.
The Kings are 2-7 in games Artest has missed this season. Sacramento had Artest in the lineup in its first matchup with Phoenix this season, losing 100-98 on Nov. 20. A day later, the veteran forward missed the rematch with the Suns to be with his ailing daughter and Phoenix won 127-111, recording its second-highest point total of the season.
Artest is averaging 19.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Suns star Amare Stoudemire turned in a couple of strong games against the Clippers with 28 points Friday after a 30-point, 15-rebound effort in the first game.
Stoudemire leads a Phoenix offense that is averaging a league-best 109.1 points per game, while allowing 103.8. The Suns, though, have allowed less than 100 points in two straight games for the first time since the first week of the season.
Phoenix had a season-high 16 blocks Friday to win consecutive games for the first time since a five-game run from Nov. 30-Dec. 7.
"All we need to do is put our mind to it," Stoudemire said. "From athleticism to intelligence, we've got it all. Everybody's smart basketball players, we just need to do it. We're on the right track."
The Kings, meanwhile, have lost three straight - all at home - to match their longest skid of the season. They shot 42.7 percent versus the Sixers after being held to a season-low 69 points in a loss to Boston on Wednesday night.
Another game without Artest won't help Sacramento's problems on offense.
Starting point guard Mike Bibby has yet to play this season and leading scorer Kevin Martin has missed 11 straight games with a strained right groin. Bibby and Martin could return by mid-January.
"It's hard without our top three players," said Kings guard Beno Udrih, averaging a career-best 14.2 points per game. "Ron is a big factor on offense and defense. Injuries happen so we can't feel sorry for ourselves."
Sacramento could use a productive night from Francisco Garcia, who is averaging just 9.8 points on less than 30 percent shooting in his last four games. Garcia averaged 22.5 points on over 53 percent shooting in last month's two losses to Phoenix.
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