Suddenly hot Kings look to keep rolling vs. Suns


Suddenly hot Kings look to keep rolling vs. Suns

March 29, 2011

PHOENIX (36-36) vs.
KINGS (20-52)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns' playoff hopes are getting slimmer as they continue to fade in the Western Conference.

The Sacramento Kings will miss out on the postseason for the fifth year in a row, but find themselves in the midst of a season-best winning streak.

Phoenix hopes to avoid a fourth loss in five games while host Sacramento tries for a fourth consecutive win overall and third straight in the series when the teams meet Tuesday night.

The Suns' postseason chances took a major hit Sunday as they fell for the seventh time in 10 games, losing 91-83 to Dallas.

That defeat, along with a Memphis victory, dropped 10th-place Phoenix (36-36) four games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

The Suns, who rank fourth in the league with 105.0 points per game, have scored 100 or fewer in six of their last 10 games, losing all six and falling to 5-21 in such situations this season.

Steve Nash, averaging 15.5 points, continues to play at less than 100 percent and has scored a total of nine points on 4-of-20 shooting in his last two contests.

"I am having a hard time getting the ball in the basket right now. It has been a tough year," said Nash, averaging 23.3 points and 14.6 assists in three meetings with the Kings in 2010-11. "We are facing some pains right now because of the mountain we had to climb all year. I think we have to play with class and dignity and go on fighting every night."

Center Marcin Gortat - averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in his last six games - and swingman Jared Dudley started in place of Robin Lopez and Vince Carter on Sunday. Gortat and Dudley combined for 40 points and 20 rebounds.

Despite Nash's impressive numbers against Sacramento (20-52), Phoenix has lost back-to-back games to the Kings, partly due to getting outrebounded by an average of 21.5. The Suns had taken 17 of the previous 19 matchups in the series.

After winning four of their previous 22 games overall, the Kings went 4-1 on their recently completed road trip - including Sunday's 114-111 overtime win over Philadelphia, their third consecutive victory.

REWIND: Kings prevail in overtime vs. Sixers

"We know our record is not very good. We always felt we had a good team," coach Paul Westphal told "We're learning. We're becoming a good defensive team and we're sorting things out."

Guard Marcus Thornton, averaging 22.0 points since joining Sacramento from New Orleans prior to the trade deadline, scored 32 on Sunday and was one of seven Kings to reach double figures.

Sacramento trailed by as many as 12 points but outrebounded the 76ers by 22 and recorded its first OT win in six tries.

"Our team has a tendency to hang our heads and not bounce back from those kinds of things," Westphal said. "We haven't been a good closing team for most of the year, but lately, we've improved in that area, too."

Center Samuel Dalembert had his third straight double-double with 13 points and a season-best 19 rebounds. Tyreke Evans scored 10 points off the bench in his second game back since missing 19 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Thornton averaged 20.5 points - 7.3 more than his career mark - in his last four games against the Suns while with the Hornets. He had 10 points and 10 rebounds Jan. 30 at Phoenix for his only career double-double.

Reigning AL MVP Trout to undergo thumb surgery, out 6-8 weeks

Reigning AL MVP Trout to undergo thumb surgery, out 6-8 weeks

ANAHEIM -- Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout has a torn ligament in his left thumb and will have surgery Wednesday that is expected to sideline him between six to eight weeks.

The Angels put the reigning AL MVP on the disabled list Monday for the first time in his career. The outfielder hurt himself a day earlier making a headfirst slide to steal second base in Miami.

At 25, Trout already is a two-time AL MVP. He is hitting .337 and has 16 home runs, second most in the majors.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said an MRI revealed the tear. Team doctor Steve Shin arrived in Anaheim later Monday night, met with Trout and it was determined surgery was his best option.

"It was news no player wants to hear," Eppler said. "He's been put in a tough spot and it's something he's still digesting."

The Angels lost shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a similar thumb injury last season. He had surgery and was out slightly over five weeks.

Los Angeles was 26-28 going Monday night's game at home against Atlanta, and the lineup recently missed ailing slugger Albert Pujols.

Trout made his major league debut by playing 40 games for the Angels in 2011. Since then, he's been a five-time All-Star and has finished in the top two in the AL MVP all five seasons.

A year after hitting .315 with a .441 on-base percentage, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs and 30 steals, Trout was off to a dynamic start. He was leading the league in on-base percentage (.461) and slugging percentage (.742) when he was hurt.

"It's really hard to quantify (his loss)," Eppler said. "We're going to feel that impact and it's going to require multiple people stepping up in his absence. The team will fight as it always does. But he's in the heart of the order and a leader in the dugout. Those are tough to absorb."

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.