It has been more than two weeks since the Phoenix Suns last played a road game.
They currently are on a franchise-record eight-game homestand and are 4-2 so far, having lost the last two after winning the first four.
Jeff Hornacek’s group has two meetings left against formidable Eastern Conference teams — Washington on Wednesday, and Chicago on Friday — before they can call this current slate of home games a wrap.
The Suns took care of business against teams they had good odds against — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers — in the first three games of the homestand.
The next three meetings had them pitted against the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively. A loss or two against those three playoff-caliber teams could be forgiven.
In the lone win in that trio of games, Phoenix saw a 25-point lead completely dissipate against the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Blazers, and the Suns had to work themselves out of a little hole in the fourth quarter to claim victory.
The scenario switched for Phoenix in the most recent pair of games, as the home team came back from double-digit deficits to either tie or make it close in the fourth, yet the club came up short in both attempts.
The last two losses have shed light on a new theme emerging with this team: Pick up a technical foul for arguing with the refs, and find yourself on the bench for the rest of the game. Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris learned that the hard way against the Rockets and Clippers, respectively. Both starters missed crucial fourth-quarter action because of arguing with the officials the period before.
Could the Suns have used their services in crunch time to steal a victory or two? Probably, but Hornacek felt this was the best way to crack down on a club that has been among the league lead for technical fouls all season.
Suns players had played five games of tech-free ball before Dragic and P.J. Tucker were t’d up in the third quarter of the loss to Houston. Tucker was not benched for the rest of the game because his technical had to do with his behavior toward the Rockets’ James Harden — and not directly toward an official.
In Sunday’s loss to L.A., the Suns started the fourth quarter down 12, but closed the gap to two with 7:30 remaining. Morris, who has been one of the best clutch players in the league this season, likely could have helped in that situation, but Hornacek made it clear he’s sticking with his no-technical policy.
Phoenix has hit the century mark in each of the six games on the current homestand, and is averaging 110.2 points per contest during that span. Opponents are averaging 107.5 points per game over the Suns’ last six; only one team, the Timberwolves, failed to reach 100 during that time, but they still put up 99.
Morris kicked off the homestand with a career-high 35 points in the win over Cleveland, but Eric Bledsoe has been the star of this recent run of games: He scored a career-high 33 in the win over Portland and is averaging 20.0 points, 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest over the last six at US Airways Center. Isaiah Thomas was quiet in the first two games, but has topped the 20-point mark in his last four outings, including a season-high 27 against Portland.
WHERE THEY STAND
As of Monday night, the Suns are 26-20 and holding the final spot in the Western Conference playoff race, although New Orleans and Oklahoma City are nipping at their heels. Phoenix had won seven straight at home before falling to Houston, and the club’s current record at US Airways is 13-9 (a .591 winning percentage).
Through 46 games last season, by comparison, Phoenix had a 28-18 record, so the team will have to pick it up a little to get back on its 2013-14 pace.
Although the next five matchups are daunting, Wednesday’s meeting with Washington may be just what the doctor ordered to break Phoenix’s two-game losing streak. The Wizards are currently the second-best team in the East, but the Suns already beat them on the road once this season, making key plays down the stretch and prevailing by 12. The two teams split their season series last season, with both games being decided by six points or fewer.
After facing Washington and Chicago, the Suns will match up against the Golden State Warriors on the road before coming home to play the Memphis Grizzlies and then taking on the Blazers in Portland. Not exactly what you’d call the ideal portion of your schedule.
The Suns then get a little reprieve by being matched up with the struggling Utah Jazz — Feb. 6 at home — and Sacramento Kings — Feb. 8 on the road. They face the Rockets at home once more on Feb. 10, Phoenix’s final contest before hitting the All-Star break.