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Phoenix Suns enjoy brief break, ready to resume playing

PHOENIX — After a stretch of eight games in 12 days followed by three games in a four-day period, Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek decided his team needed a break. They would not practice Saturday or Sunday, giving players a rare weekend off from basketball.

“I don’t know when was the last time we got two days off,” said guard Goran Dragic, who spent the extra time with his family, putting up the Christmas tree and hanging lights outside the house. “It was fun.”

Forward P.J. Tucker, after watching his alma mater Texas fail to win the Big 12 football title, attended the Pac-12 Championship Game to root on the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

“It was a bad day all around,” he said. “It was a pretty bad day, but it was fun though.”

Tucker appreciated the break.

“I think mentally for the guys to get a couple of days off, refresh a little bit, get ready for this little Christmas stretch, it’s kind of needed sometimes,” he said.

Explained Hornacek, “To me, I like the mental days — just to get away from basketball so you can come back and play and you’re excited to play. It doesn’t turn into a job.”

Players and coaches reconvened Monday for a spirited two-hour practice, which included a 5-on-5, full-court scrimmage.

“Good to get after it,” Tucker said. “We hadn’t played each other and really got after it in a while, so it was good to definitely go after each other a little bit today.”

Of course the play was sloppy at times, but all in all, Hornacek was pleased.

“You can’t expect that they’re going to be really sharp after two days off. The thing you wanted was the effort and us to get up and down the court and they did that,” he said.

A quarter of the way through the season, the Suns are 11-9, ninth-best in the Western Conference. They’d be in fourth place if they played in the Eastern Conference.

“The West is really tough. The East -— I don’t know what’s going in the East,” Dragic joked. “I feel like we could have a couple more (wins), but I’m still satisfied with that record. We’re playing well.”

The Suns have won two straight and four of their last six. They have not had a three-game winning streak all season.

A sixth attempt at a season-high three wins in a row will be made Tuesday at the Staples Center against the L.A. Lakers, which begins a run of games against the Pacific Division. The Suns will play six of their next 10 games within their own division.

“The culture of the team and everybody just sticking together and fighting together, it’s really starting to show now,” Tucker said. “Even when we have a couple of bad losses, guys are coming back the next game and fighting and playing hard. That’s all you can ask for. I’m excited.”