The first half of December didn’t go very well for the Phoenix Suns.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek’s team entered the month with a 10-8 record, then won back-to-back games against Indiana and Dallas.
They followed that with a painful six-game losing streak that included two losses on buzzer beaters to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
But since that loss to the Bucks on Dec. 15, the Suns have righted the ship, going 8-2 over their last ten games. At 20-16, Phoenix is in eighth place in the Western Conference, two games ahead of ninth-place New Orleans.
“I think when you lose six games (in a row), the guys kind of take a look at what you’re doing and they take it personally,” Hornacek told Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “They kind of all looked in the mirror and said ‘Hey, we need to do better. We need to quit worrying about our stuff and do what we need to do to make the team better.’
“Since that time, they’re playing hard on every play. They’re sharing the ball, they’re moving it around and helping each other out defensively. When you do that, you can win games.”
In this 10-game span, the Suns have had victories over Washington, Dallas and Toronto — some of the league’s best teams. Some of that success has to do with a simplified approach.
“What our guys have done recently, is they’re not trying to make the ‘home run’ play,” Hornacek said. “They’re coming off a pick-and-roll and they’ll just hit the first guy they see. They’re not trying to make the pass that gets the basket.
“They’re just hitting the next guy. And the next guy makes a play and the next guy makes a play. That’s a better way to play. Do the simple things.”
The Suns have an opportunity to avenge one of their more painful losses Tuesday night in Milwaukee. In the final game of their six-game skid, Bucks forward Khris Middleton hit a three-pointer that hit the backboard, rolled around the rim and fell in as time expired, giving Milwaukee a 96-94 victory.
Hornacek knows the Suns will have to continue their increased effort to beat Milwaukee.
“We’ve got to have energy. (The Bucks) play extremely hard, they can go with multiple lineups and they’re not that big,” he said. “They move the ball, they drive you so we’ve got to keep our guys in front of us and just compete against them.
“It’s another one of those games if we come out and think we’re just kind of go at 80 percent against these guys, we probably won’t come away with a win.”