Preview: Golden State Warriors (22-28) at Phoenix Suns (24-25)

Phoenix Suns 112, Golden State Warriors 88


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PHOENIX — It’s been quite a while since the Phoenix Suns could call themselves a winning team and all recent chances they have had to relinquish a losing record have gone for naught.

Thursday’s matchup with the Golden State Warriors marks the Sun’s fourth opportunity to get back to the .500 mark since Dec. 19.

While shaking the “losing team” label for at least a day will certainly offer some relief to the Suns and their fans, don’t expect the team to put much stock in a winning percentage.

“We’re not throwing a party for it or anything,” Suns center Channing Frye said after practice Wednesday. “We should’ve been at .500 a long time ago, but you know, stuff happens. We lost some games we shouldn’t have lost. We’ll just try to continue to get to our goal and that’s the playoffs.”

Grant Hill echoed Frye’s sentiment, saying there would be no postgame fireworks if the Suns win, but for a team that has seen as many ups and downs as a pogo stick this season, getting back to .500 is the first step toward getting the season going in the right direction.

“Getting to .500 is a great first goal,” point guard Steve Nash said. “The process is to keep improving, and the wins will come.”

The Suns are winners of four of their last five and 10 of their last 15, but they’ve been even better against the Warriors, particularly in Phoenix.

Granted, teams change from season to season, but the Suns have beat the Warriors 10 straight times at home. Golden State hasn’t won in Phoenix since March 18, 2005.

More impressive than any current streak though was the Suns’ defensive effort in Oakland on Monday that led to a 104-92 Suns win. In the victory, the Suns held the league’s best three-point shooting team (39.5 percent entering Thursday’s game) to just 11.1 percent from three-point land.

The Suns’ ability to repeat such an effort and duplicate the level of play will be put to the test Thursday night.

“It’s a tough thing to beat a team twice in a row so it’ll be a good challenge,” Nash said. “I’m sure we’ll be up for it.”

The Suns have held opponents to an average shooting percentage of 40.3 percent over the last five games. Their struggle, however, has been closing out games. The Suns have been outscored in the fourth quarter of their last four games, including a crucial fourth against Oklahoma City that led to a close loss.

With five games remaining before the All-Star break, the Suns face a crucial stretch. The team’s record at the break could play a role in any action at the Feb. 24 deadline. If the Suns don’t think they can contend this season, they may decide to move some pieces to look toward next season.

One piece though that remains unlikely to relocate is Nash, who was once again asked about the constant trade speculation on Wednesday.

“I really don’t hear it until I come down here and you guys ask me about it,” Nash said. “I think it’s all speculation from people that just need something to write. At this stage of my career, it really doesn’t bother me at all.”

Against the Warriors on Monday, Nash totaled 14 points and 15 assists to notch his 27th double-double of the season, best among all guards in the NBA this season.

And 1

Goran Dragic will not play Thursday and is unlikely to play Friday as Gentry said he remains a few games away … After Gentry told Sports 620 KTAR last week that he had lost some respect for the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett after the Garnett-Frye incident, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, when told of Gentry’s remarks, responded with this:

Actually, I didn’t know Alvin said anything. I’ll just let Alvin talk. He seems to do that well.

Gentry laughed about Rivers response Wednesday, making fun of himself.

“I’ve got to slow down,” Gentry joked. “I talk too much. That’s what Doc said.”

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