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Phoenix Suns press forward toward ‘a whole new season’

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Rested. Recharged. Ready to go.

“Great rest. Everybody looks good,” P.J. Tucker said.

Head coach Jeff Hornacek added, “They look good,” after the Phoenix Suns worked out for 90 minutes on the practice court Monday at US Airways Center.

“Obviously, when you have a bunch of days off — we’ve been off since Tuesday — they were a little rusty on some things, but I thought overall it was pretty good,” the coach said.

With the All-Star break behind them, the Suns (30-21) now look forward to resuming what’s left of their season, a 31-game sprint to land one of the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference.

“Everybody was just reminding each other, ‘Come on, it’s a whole new season. Start over right now. Zero-zero. Let’s go. Let’s push, try to get this thing going and finish the season strong,'” Tucker said.

The Suns are in seventh place in the West — a half-game back of Dallas (32-22) and a few percentage points ahead of Golden State (31-22).

Of the remaining 31 games, 15 are at home and 16 are on the road, including Tuesday at Denver — the Suns’ first game to start the second half of the season.

Phoenix has won the first three meetings between the two this season, and a win Tuesday would give the Suns a sweep of the Nuggets (24-27) for the first time since 2004-05.

“We’ll see if they really did do anything over the weekend,” Hornacek joked, alluding to the altitude in Denver. “(It will) probably be expected in the beginning of that game when our guys first get in there that they need that second wind, but hopefully it comes up quickly. We still want to try to play our game and push the ball. We want to continue what we’ve done the first 51 games.”

After the quick trip to Denver, the Suns will play eight of nine at home, which includes visits from the top four teams in the West — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

“We need to show a little supremacy at home,” Tucker said.

The Suns have fared well this season at US Airways Center, winning 17 of 26 games — though they did lose two out of three there prior to the break.

“We have to play better at home. We got our fans behind us. We don’t travel. We’ll be sleeping in our beds. That helps a lot,” leading scorer Goran Dragic said. “We have to win all the home games if we want to be contenders.”

With the West as bunched up as it is — the Suns are among four teams within two games of each another fighting for the last three playoff spots — a strong finish is a must.

But don’t ask Hornacek for a magic win total that might guarantee postseason play.

“We always told them if we get, in our scale of things, a plus-six or plus-seven, they might be able to get in. That’s equivalent to like 47, 48 (wins),” he said. “I think you probably need to be in that range to make it with the amount of teams that are battling for it.”

When the Suns next take the court, they’ll have had a between games, last hosting Miami on Tuesday, Feb. 11. And the team will need the extra rest with the number of games ahead: 10 contests in 17 days, followed by a stretch of 11 in 19 days before closing out the regular season with six of eight games against teams currently with winning records.

“If you look at schedule (and) you say, ‘Oh, it’s tough,’ then probably you’re not going to finish well. We go step-by-step. Every game is important. We already know that we can compete against the best teams in the NBA,” Dragic said. “We just have to be focused solid and have to play together. If we’re going to do that, even if we have a tough schedule, we don’t have nothing to worry about.”