The Phoenix Suns didn't have much trouble with Sacramento when the teams met three days ago, but they didn't have to contend with Ron Artest.
The Suns look to wrap up a season sweep of the Kings when the teams finish their home-and-home series Sunday at Arco Arena.
Phoenix (52-16) won 118-100 at home on Thursday, its fifth straight victory over the Kings -- three coming this season. However, Artest did not play in the opener of the home-and-home set after appearing in court in California earlier in the day. He pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from a domestic dispute with his wife.
Artest had planned to join the team in Phoenix, but his flight was diverted to Ontario, Calif., because of thunderstorms. After more delays, he returned to Sacramento on the advice of Kings president Geoff Petrie.
"We've got to deal with what we have," said Sacramento guard Mike Bibby, who had 28 points. "We played with the guys we had. Regardless of who's out there, we still have to play the game. Everything moves on. We played good. They just had a slight run in the third quarter, and that's what killed us."
Artest leads the Kings (29-40) with 6.6 rebounds per game and is the team's top defender. Without him, Sacramento was outrebounded 58-33 and outscored 64-38 in the paint by the Suns.
"They'll be a better team with Ron Artest, no doubt about it," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We'll see a different team a little bit more motivated; we'll have to be ready for them."
Amare Stoudemire had 33 points and 21 rebounds Thursday for the Suns, who own the second-best record in the league and have already wrapped up the Pacific Division. Stoudemire bounced back from a four-point, two-rebound performance against Minnesota on Tuesday that ended a streak of 55 straight double-digit scoring games.
Stoudemire, who leads the Suns with 20.6 points per game, had never picked up 30 points and 20 rebounds in the same game. He and Shawn Marion, who had 31 points and 24 rebounds on Feb. 25, 2006, against Charlotte, are the only two Suns to do it since 1995.
"He was just real active," D'Antoni said of Stoudemire. "You know, some games teams play us different ways. We don't know how they're going to play and we really don't care. If they're going to collapse on Amare, we're going to shoot 3s. If they're going to kind of stay out, we'll go to Amare. If they put little guys on him, we'll go inside."
Steve Nash chipped in 17 points and 16 assists, and Boris Diaw had 15 points and tied a career high with 14 rebounds for Phoenix.
Kevin Martin had 19 points for the Kings, who have dropped three straight games and eight of their last nine games.
"They'll be a lot different," Phoenix guard Raja Bell told the Suns' official Web site. "We had it working tonight, and I'm sure they'll feel like they're going to owe us on Sunday. Nobody likes to get beat like that, so we'll have to have our 'A' game and be ready to play.
"It's an early game and it's at their building, so we'll have to be ready to go."