PHOENIX — It’s not panic time because the Phoenix Suns know what they can fix. A 101-95 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday sent Jeff Hornacek’s squad off for a road trip on a sour note, and the bad part is that the Suns couldn’t chalk this one up to losing a few plays down the stretch or just losing to the better team.
Actually, Phoenix was lucky to be within a few possessions late after committing 21 turnovers that led to 24 points. Washington, meanwhile, did everything the Indiana Pacers didn’t when the Suns upset the best team in the league on Wednesday.
Now they’re off for a four-game road swing with questions.
“Are any of those on ESPN?” Hornacek said with a frighteningly serious face after the loss.
“We came out and wanted to trade buckets,” he said.
Even though Phoenix kept pace in the first quarter behind 12 points off four three-pointers from Channing Frye, Washington gained confidence on offense and made the adjustments on defense. The Wizards switched most screens to stop the three-pointer, packed the paint with Nene and Marcin Gortat, and sent quick doubles once the Suns over-emphasized posting up smaller players after those switches.
The result was Frye or Miles Plumlee throwing cross-court passes while the Suns showed little off-ball movement. It allowed Washington to jump in the passing lanes easily.
“Like anything else, if you are not quick they are not going to sit and leave a point or two guard on a 6-foot-11, 7-foot guy,” Hornacek said. “They were coming over from the weak side and we weren’t making decisions fast enough, so at that point we said back the big guy out of there and attack them with the point guard, Goran. We just weren’t able to get anything going in the second half.”
Dragic ended his night with 19 points and 11 assists, but the switching and cluttered paint hampered him after recording 12 points and seven assists in the first half.
Likewise, the Suns didn’t make Washington pay for moving Nene’s defensive assignment from Channing Frye to P.J. Tucker. Trevor Ariza, who Frye called the “Frye stopper,” locked in on the Suns’ power forward then-forth, and suddenly, the Suns were trying too hard to force it to the mismatches in the post.
Once the doubles came, the bigs were stuck in the corners.
“We just make the game hard for us sometimes,” Frye said. “We’re a good team when we’re just simple, and we go out there and just play relentless Phoenix Suns basketball and tonight we just didn’t do that.”
Dragic called it bad spacing, but it might as well have been called one of the ugliest games Phoenix has played this year.
“In the first half, we were looking for some combination that would play defense and then in the second half, we were in the hunt for somebody who would play some offense and do something,” Hornacek said.
If the team is looking for big-name opponents, they’re not going to get it at the end of the road trip, when they must visit Indiana. Before that rematch, the Suns visit Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. So when the obligatory questions about whether the Suns just couldn’t get up for the Wizards following the high of beating the Pacers came, Hornacek shot back.
“If they did, it’s a pretty poor excuse,” he said.