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Untimely injury to Phoenix Suns star could affect Kings in Western Conference playoff race

An untimely injury to one of the NBA’s biggest stars could affect the Kings and a number of other teams in a tight Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker went down with a right ankle sprain in Saturday’s 118-109 loss to the Houston Rockets. With Booker out of the lineup, the Suns suffered a 118-110 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, allowing Sacramento to move ahead of Phoenix for the No. 6 seed in the West.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the injury could sideline Booker for “at least the next seven to 10 days.” Sources told The Arizona Republic on Monday Booker is expected to be out from five to 14 days.

Based on those timelines, Booker could miss between two and seven more games. The upcoming schedule will be difficult for Phoenix with games against the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics (2), Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.

Booker is averaging 27.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists this season. He is shooting 49.4% from the field and 37.9% from 3-point range. The Suns are 31-19 with him in the lineup. They are 4-7 without him.

The Kings and Suns are among a group of six teams — all separated by 3 ½ games — who are vying for the last two automatic playoff bids in the West. The top six teams in each conference will secure automatic berths. The next four teams will have to fight their way in through the play-in tournament.

Going into Monday’s games, the New Orleans Pelicans (36-25) were fifth in the West followed by the Kings (34-25), Suns (35-26), Dallas Mavericks (34-27), Golden State Warriors (32-28) and Los Angeles Lakers (33-29).

The Kings are 2-2 against the Suns this season. They will meet again April 12 in Sacramento. The winner of that game will hold the tiebreaker if they finish with identical records.

The Kings, coming off a big road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, were hopeful that All-NBA point guard De’Aaron Fox would be back in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Chicago Bulls. Fox missed the past two games after suffering a left knee contusion during a Feb. 26 loss to the Miami Heat.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) handles the ball against Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) during the third quarter Jan. 16, 2024, at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) handles the ball against Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) during the third quarter Jan. 16, 2024, at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.