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Suns head down home stretch of forgettable season

Seventy-seven down…five to go.

Owners of a dismal 23-54 record with five games remaining, the Suns will miss the postseason for the third straight year.

Normally, this would be the time of year the guys in the purple and orange uniforms would be gearing up for the playoffs. Twenty-nine times in their 44-year history, the Suns have qualified for the postseason.

That is not the case this season, but there’s still a lot to play for according to interim head coach Lindsey Hunter.

“It’s like I’ve been telling these guys, we’re all being judged on our performances,” Hunter said following Monday’s practice. “You’ve got to come to play, the season’s not over. Just because we’re not going to the playoffs doesn’t mean the season is over.

“There are five games to play and this is what we get paid to do and you should want to compete and enjoy it. You never get these years back, so you want to take advantage of them.”

At best, the Suns can tie the second-worst mark in team history at 28-54. Only the expansion Suns had a worse record at 16-66 in 1968-69.

Making matters worse is the fact that the Suns are on the road for four of their last five, including Tuesday night’s tilt in Houston against the Rockets.

Center Marcin Gortat, who hasn’t played since March 6 because of a midfoot sprain, did accompany the team on the road trip and is hoping to play in at least one game before the end of the season.

Veteran center Jermaine O’Neal, who has been bothered by a bruised shin, practiced Monday and said he’ll play Tuesday night.