PHOENIX — Only 15 minutes had passed since the final buzzer sounded and the Phoenix Suns capped off a 48-minute slaughtering of the Houston Rockets.
Five minutes into Alvin Gentry’s postgame press conference a camera guy asked the Suns head coach about the importance of Phoenix’s road trip that starts tonight in Miami, moves to Orlando tomorrow night, travels to Indiana on Friday, and wraps up in Cleveland on Sunday.
Gentry let out a few laughs before sarcastically answering, “Thanks,” as if to say, “I appreciate the reminder.” It’s going to be that kind of trip for the Phoenix Suns.
After enjoying the comfort of US Airways Center for 12 of their last 14 games, the Suns have to take on three teams that have combined to win 65.0 percent of their games, followed by a Cleveland team full of young talent.
“Obviously it’s a tough trip,” Gentry said. “We’ve got Miami, who’s one of the elite teams in the league, and we play Orlando, who’s another elite team in the league. The Pacers are probably playing as well as anyone, then we go to Cleveland, who’s a talented team. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, but we’ve played pretty good basketball on the road. We’ve just got to go out and execute and if we manage our turnovers on the road and rebound the basketball we’ve been in most of the games that we’ve played.”
Winners of four straight, Phoenix is one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and it’s easy to forget that the Suns were road warriors earlier in the season. Before fixing their home woes the Suns lived on the road and have already defeated the Celtics, Clippers, Knicks and Hawks away from home.
“I thought early on in the year we actually played a little better on the road,” said Grant Hill. “We started to sort of solve the problem at home and we beat some good teams, teams that are ahead of us in the playoff hunt. We’re playing with confidence.”
Although the Suns haven’t been all that bad on the road at 8-12, they’ll have to become extra comfortable away from US Airways Center with 12 of their next 15 coming outside of Arizona state lines.
They won’t be eased into that brutal stretch either as the Suns will take on the NBA’s best home team tonight in South Beach. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company are 19-2 in AmericanAirlines Arena on the season and haven’t lost at home since Jan. 22, a streak that spans 13 games.
The uber-talented Heat hold the NBA’s third-best record and could bring Phoenix’s hot streak to a screeching halt. But Hill says the Suns are “playing as good as we have all season” and Steve Nash said the Suns can’t think about where they’re playing. Every game matters at this point, and Phoenix has to come away with wins in the worst way.
“We’ve got to go out there with a great attitude and spirit and win games. We can’t worry about the road or where we are,” Nash said. “We’re in a desperate position. We’ve fought back to where we have a chance, but we’ve got to approach every game like a playoff game.”