This season got off to an unexpectedly pleasant start for the Phoenix Suns.
The team, led by a rookie head coach in Jeff Hornacek and stocked with a roster featuring eight new players, shocked everyone around the league by winning five of their first seven games.
Prior to the season, most Las Vegas oddsmakers had the rebuilding Suns pegged to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 games.
Reality has possibly set in with the Suns. They dropped their fourth straight game Wednesday night at US Airways Center, losing to the Sacramento Kings 113-106. With the loss, Phoenix (5-6) fell under .500 for the first time this season.
"I think (Wednesday) was the first night we didn't have that full energy," Hornacek said following his team's second loss to the Kings in as many nights. "We had some, it was still pretty decent effort-wise, but we just weren't quick enough to things. They outhustled us.
"We have to lay it out there. With the team we have, we have to go out at every play like it's the last."
That wasn't the case Wednesday, especially in the third quarter, when Phoenix scored a season-low 12 points.
"They made all the right plays and we didn't, plain and simple," swingman Gerald Green said.
The Suns have definitely felt the absence of point guard Eric Bledsoe in the most recent two losses. Bledsoe has been bothered by a shin contusion.
His running mate in the backcourt, Goran Dragic, scored a season-high 31 points in Wednesday's loss and talked about the team's emotional state as they find themselves faced with adversity for the first time this year.
"Everybody is, I would not say sad, but I would say mad," he said. "We had two of those games where we should have won -- in Portland and in Sacramento -- but (Wednesday), we didn't play so well."
The Suns now head on the road for a three-game trip to Charlotte, Orlando and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
Despite the skid, Dragic is optimistic as the team heads East.
"I still think we've got that poise that we can play," he said. "When Eric comes back, it's going to be much easier and we'll try to win some games."