Programming note: Kings-Suns coverage starts tonight at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Kings Pregame Live (territorial restrictions apply)
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The Kings (4-1) are on an unexpected roll, having won four straight. And two intriguing scenarios are on tap against the Suns:
• Due to the hot start, are the Kings this year’s Suns, who were +23 in the win column last season?
• The Kings will face former point guard Isaiah Thomas, who departed after a July sign and trade between the teams.
Kings coach Michael Malone is keen on keeping the Kings focused on the Suns' fast break ... and not on the hype throughout the NBA that the winning streak has attracted.
[RELATED: Strong start changes conversation in Sac]
“Phoenix is a team that’s going to run you out of the gym," Malone said. "They’re going to run three different point guards.
"Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas are all going to be in attack mode. We have to contain the ball.”
Erstwhile point guard
In lieu of retaining Thomas, the Kings opted to sign free agent Darren Collison, who toiled under Doc Rivers while backing up Chris Paul in LA. Collison is off to a solid start with the Kings, averaging 15 points, 6.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.
Both parties know full well that love will be lost and intense competition will be found for 48 minutes at the US Airways Center.
With the plethora of guards in action tonight, expect Malone to go with a small-ball lineup.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Darren Collison & Ben McLemore vs. Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe & Isaiah Thomas: Expect a lot of emotion as another early-season win can only add “street cred.”
The Kings need to contain old friend Thomas, Dragic -- the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season -- and Bledsoe’s explosiveness.
DeMarcus Cousins vs. Miles Plumlee: Can anyone stop Cousins? He's been sensational in two of the last three games -- 30 points vs. the Nuggets and 34 points and 17 rebounds in the win at the Staples Center over the Clippers.
Plumlee, Alex Len and the rest of the Suns frontcourt will have their hands full with the former Kentucky Wildcat.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Transition defense: Phoenix’s up-tempo style produces 18.2 fast break points per night (2nd in the NBA) and the Suns will look to exploit the Kings' deficiency -- allowing 14.6 fast break points per game (21st in the NBA).
2. Half-court offense: The Kings will attempt to emulate Memphis’ half-court success in the Grizzlies' 102-91 win over the Suns on Wednesday night.
However, using Malone’s lexicon, Sacramento will “run but run with discipline.”
3. Go to guys: When All-Star caliber players Cousins and Gay are thriving -- combined for 59 points in Wednesday’s win against the Nuggets -- you go to them early and often.
Sacramento – No limiting injuries. Eric Moreland D-League assignment is inactive.
Phoenix – T.J. Warren (small crack in bone in left thumb) is out.
Friday marks the first of four meetings between the Kings and Suns this season.
Phoenix visits Sacramento on Dec. 26 in Thomas’ first appearance at Sleep Train Arena wearing a different uniform.
Last season, the teams split their four-game series with Sacramento taking the first two games -- a back-to-back in Sacramento (107-104) and in Phoenix (113-106) on Nov. 19 and 20, respectively.
The Suns bounced back to take the two final meetings -- in Phoenix on Dec. 13 (116-107) and at Sleep Train Arena (104-99) on April 16 -- the final game of last season.