Suns-Mavericks pregame: Hill to start

Grant Hill

PHOENIX — The Suns’ efforts to end a two-game losing streak and improve their fortunes of late will include the presence of Grant Hill, who missed Tuesday’s game against Charlotte with a bruised heel.

“I think he would’ve gone the other night if we would’ve let him,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said before the game.

Hill’s absence Tuesday snapped a streak of 128 consecutive games.

Guarding Dirk

Attempting to turn things around doesn’t get much harder than against the Dallas Mavericks. The Suns have a big challenge on defense — where they struggle like it’s their job — and his name is Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki is nothing new, as the Suns have seen him plenty of times, but it never gets easier to stop him.

“He’s probably the toughest matchup in the league,” Gentry said. “There was a time when you could play a smaller guy on him … with bigger guys he just drives around him. You just have to have good team defensive principles.”

Nowitzki is the NBA’s seventh-leading scorer with 25.2 points per game to go with 7.9 rebounds. Gentry also discussed Nowitzki’s shooting prowess as an added weapon.

“He’s a great shooter,” Gentry said. “The thing that we try to tell our guys is the one thing you can’t do is leave your feet [while guarding] him. You also can’t put him on the foul line. There’s not very much influence you can have on his shot because of his size.”

Gentry didn’t discuss any particular matchups, but did say the whole team has to help on defense. The Suns certainly have their work cut out for them tonight.

Just another game

Even with a grueling road stretch ahead, Gentry wouldn’t call this home game against a top-five team any more important than every game.

“I think they’re all important,” Gentry said. “I don’t put any more emphasis on this one than when we go play Houston or against Sacramento, the last game on the trip.”

Gentry went on to discuss how competitive the Western Conference is this season, mentioning that a team over .500, the 24-21 Houston Rockets, is in last place in the Southwest.

“In the [Western Conference] right now, all the games are important,” Gentry said. “If you struggle like we have, 3-7 in our last 10, … a losing streak like this in the West is going to cost you.”

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