Five games in seven days.
When the Phoenix Suns set out for their recently-concluded road trip, the prevailing thought was that the difficult stretch would be very important.
Just one of the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks had a non-losing record at the time they met up with Phoenix, giving the surprising Suns a real opportunity to pile up some wins.
Instead, they went 1-4, with losses by five, five, two and two points. Their lone win was by one point.
"For the fifth game in seven nights against a team that's playing well, I thought they gave a heck of an effort," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said after the final game of the trip, a loss to the Knicks. "We didn't make shots. Don't know if it's because it's the end of the trip."
Regardless, you better believe the Suns are happy to be back home, where their next five games will be played. No more snow, no more travel delays and no more hostile crowds.
Unfortunately, though, still no Eric Bledsoe, either.
"It's a little bit harder now with Eric out. It's much easier when you're playing together and you have two ball handlers," point guard Goran Dragic said after the Knicks game. "But it is what it is and I have to keep my head up."
Besides the upcoming home stand, the good news for the Suns is that at 21-16 they still have a two-game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, and are only one game back of the Dallas Mavericks for the seventh.
But as crucial as the five-game road trip was supposed to be, this cluster of home contests could be just as important. It should also be a bit more difficult, at least in terms of the quality of opponents. Starting off with the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday, the Suns will also host the Mavericks, Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards.
The Lakers are struggling, but the Mavericks and Nuggets, as previously mentioned, are in the playoff hunt, while the Pacers have the best record in basketball and Wizards are currently an Eastern Conference playoff team.
A good stretch here could solidify the Suns as a playoff team; a bad one could put them on the outside looking in.