Playing against teams likely destined for lottery picks, the Phoenix Suns may have been served a reality check last week.
The Suns lost 122-97 to the Denver Nuggets on Friday, following it up with 93-90 loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Although not considered among the worst teams in the league, games against the Magic and Nuggets are very winnable for a Suns team playing a schedule loaded with highly-talented Western Conference opponents.
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek was a guest Tuesday with Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and he mentioned the team may be losing these games by coming in with a relaxed mindset against the less-intimidating teams.
“When we play the good teams, our guys get fired up. They get mentally ready,” said Hornacek. “It seems like, at times, against teams we are supposed to beat, we just think that, ‘OK, we are just going to the gym to play a pickup game and we’ll beat ’em.’ It’s a tough thing to get through the guys’ heads.”
Of the Suns’ eight losses this season, three have been to teams with a winning percentage below .400, including a 103-95 home loss to the Charlotte Hornets(4-14) on Nov. 14. These matchups against vulnerable opponents may be critical down the stretch for a team that missed the playoffs by one game in 2013-14 and is once again hanging around the last post-season spot in the conference.
“I think the youth has something to do with it,” said Hornacek. “We stressed it at the beginning of the year, even prior to entering the season that we were one game off.
“Every game counts but sometimes it’s a natural tendency and when you’re young, you think you’re invincible and you think you’re going to go out there and have a great game and all of a sudden, some guy outplays you and outhustles you.”
The coach added that this may be a part of the team’s growth, and some hiccups on the schedule may happen along the way for the league’s seventh-youngest team.
Inexperience has not only been apparent in the team’s results against weaker teams, but in their ability to take care of the ball.
The Suns have the seventh-most turnovers in the NBA, with the majority of the giveaways coming from stars Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
“I think most of our turnovers are when a guy is trying to do too much,” said Hornacek. “They are our best players, but at times, you have to drive with the purpose of drawing someone to you and then throwing it out to the wide open guy and not make the home run play and just make the simple pass.”
The Suns may have an opportunity to remedy both their poor play and turnover issues in their next game against on Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are currently three games below .500 and are causing little havoc for opposing offenses, forcing the NBA’s fourth-lowest turnover total this season.
The Suns-Pacers game starts at 7 p.m. and can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.