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Phoenix Suns entering final stretch of games

The calendar has flipped.

The Phoenix Suns’ fortune has not, at least not yet.

The Suns remain destined for the NBA Draft Lottery and a likely top-five pick come June. The playoffs will be missed for a third straight season.

“Playing for your job,” interim head coach Lindsey Hunter answered when asked about motivation for the final eight games of the regular season.

“You can get senioritis if you want to and you’ll be graduating prematurely from this team,” he continued smiling. “I think guys understand that. And they showed it last game by competing. We just have to continue to work on our execution and understanding of what to do. That’s kind of been our theme. We’ll continue to do that until (the season is) over.”

Hunter, who is 10-23 since taking over as head coach, liked the effort his players put forth Saturday against Indiana, hanging with the third-best team in the Eastern Conference until the Pacers pulled away over the last three minutes of the game.

He liked the effort given at the start of last week, when the Suns came within a Hamed Haddadi put-back of going into overtime against Brooklyn.

It’s the recent efforts in games against Washington, Minnesota and Sacramento — three home losses to three teams a combined 59 games under .500, that cause Hunter to stomp his feet and bang his hand on the scorer’s table.

Consistency is the goal.

“With young guys like we have,” Hunter said, “I’ll have to stay on Markieff (Morris). I’ll have to stay on Wesley (Johnson). I’ll have to stay on (Michael) Beasley about constantly being where you’re supposed to be, rotating when you’re supposed to and aware of what’s going on defensively, all the time. It’s just part of it. That’s part of the coaching them into maturing.

“They’re still young because most of them would just be getting out of college,” he continued. “Back when I was playing, you knew you were a four-year at least guy, unless you were Chris Webber or Penny Hardaway.”