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Suns, Kings look for some momentum in matchup

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For young teams struggling to win in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns sure have been able to provide some entertainment.

It has been the savvy old-timers doing the trick.

The Suns (13-23) will be in Sacramento to play at the Golden 1 Center on Friday night, fresh off a truly last-second victory that made them the talk of the league for a night.

The Kings (12-22), fresh off two straight lackluster losses, were revitalized by a 20-year veteran and looked more like the team that ended a recent four-game trip with two straight victories.

It will be the third meeting between the teams this season. The Kings won the most recent one, 99-92 on Dec. 12.

Sacramento played that game without 40-year-old Vince Carter, who electrified the home crowd on Tuesday with a 24-point performance in the Kings' 109-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

According to the team, it was the first time any NBA player in his 40s came off the bench to score 20 points in a game.

For Carter, it was a reminder that he can still light up the nets. He hadn't scored in double digits in any of the previous 20 games he'd played, and his effective return seemed to infuse the Kings with something they'd lacked while losing back-to-back games by a combined 36 points to the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.

As he put it to the Sacramento Bee: "It's not really about the points."

"I really love Vince playing out there with us, because he just knows how to play the game," teammate Garrett Temple told NBC Sports Bay Area. " ... Just his presence, and his ability to shoot the ball and defensively to talk and communicate is what makes him so important."

The Kings will be playing the second game in a six-game homestand that is their longest so far this season. They have gone 8-9 since Nov. 20.

The Suns, 117-115 winners over the Kings at home on Oct. 23, produced the league's most unlikely ending in a 99-97 home victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. Forward Tyson Chandler slammed home Dragan Bender's perfect inbounds pass from above the rim with 0.4 of a second left.

The league-wide reaction "has been crazy," Suns coach Jay Triano told the Arizona Republic.

Chandler told the Republic, "I'm pretty sure it's going to be a thing now."

The unforeseen excitement created for the Suns by that play came just as they received a jolt from guard Devin Booker's return from a nine-game absence caused by a strained left abductor muscle. Booker, the team leader in points (24.6 per game), scored 32 against the Grizzlies in his first game since Dec. 5.

"This is better than Christmas for me," he told reporters after the game.

On Thursday, general manager Ryan McDonough left no doubt about the second-year players' importance to the franchise, telling the Arizona Republic that Booker will have a voice in all of the organization's major decisions, including the team's search for a coach and players in free agency and the draft.

Updated December 29, 2017

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