PHOENIX — Maybe it’s how it happened — three hard-fought losses followed by a clunker — or the fact that it took 11 games to transpire, but the Phoenix Suns surprisingly find themselves in unfamiliar territory for the first time in 2013-14.
After Wednesday night’s 113-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix is currently mired in its first four-game losing streak of the season.
For a team that most believed was destined for doom and gloom from the outset, four-game losing streaks would seem like the norm and not all that shocking. But for a Jeff Hornacek-led squad that has played its tail off in just about every one of its 11 contests, a bout of adversity is very much a new wrinkle in a season that’s been full of more highs than lows.
Last season, Phoenix dropped at least four games in a row on six separate occasions, including three streaks that lasted six, seven and 10 games respectively. As one of only four players on the Suns’ current active roster who endured such agony in 2012-13, P.J. Tucker emphasized the need for this year’s squad to remain focused on the bigger picture, rather than letting an early slump derail the season before it really even starts.
“You have to keep guys’ heads focused,” Tucker said. “Guys know it’s the NBA, man. We have so much more to play, so much more going. It’s about keeping our heads up. We still have a lot of season ahead of us. We’re going to keep playing.
“We’re young and ready to play. We’re heading out on a road trip and hope to get a couple games out of it.”
The recent four-game losing streak can be linked to a number of deficiencies: a failure to close late, stagnant half court offense, inconsistent lineups due to Eric Bledsoe’s absence, lapses during key portions of the second half, lack of size and strength on the glass and on and on the list goes.
But don’t blame Phoenix’s woes on chemistry, at least not within earshot of Goran Dragic. The Suns guard, who scored a season-high 31 points in Wednesday’s loss, thinks it has less to do with eight new faces on the roster and more to do with playing sound, fundamental basketball.
“I think our execution is the problem,” Dragic said. “We don’t set the screens. We don’t pass the ball when the guy is open. Sometimes we just have that bug inside that makes it so we don’t know how to play. Even last night in Sacramento, we had too many turnovers.
“I mean we’re running plays where they didn’t set screens. They just ran over with their guy, and we couldn’t make a pass. If you’re not making hard cuts and sprints to set a screen, it’s tough to play.”
Dragic’s backcourt mate Wednesday, Gerald Green, added that the team’s lack of execution stems in part because of its youth. And because of that, the little things — ones that can often contribute to ending losing streaks — are being ignored.
“The difference between a veteran team and a young team is that a veteran team is going to really focus in on the little details of what they have to do to win,” Green said. “I think what we’re not doing is locking in on the small details. I think we’re just beating ourselves, that’s just about doing the little things, the small details and the 50-50 balls that we’re just not locked into and focused on.”
But Green, being the veteran that he is, noted that patience is in order, even in the face of adversity. With 71 games to play, the Suns still have plenty of time to erase a painful November losing streak.
“You just have to keep working,” said Green. “This happened to us last year with the Pacers. There’s going to be ups and downs. It’s like a roller coaster. You just got to keep working, and hopefully we turn this thing around. We have to tell the young guys to stay together. That’s what we same when we came in here at the end of the game, ‘Just stay together.’ That’s the key.”