With the regular season winding down, the Phoenix Suns have picked a good time to elevate their play.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek’s team has matched its second-longest winning streak of the season by reeling off four straight wins heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
The current streak comes on the heels of a stretch where the Suns lost three of four games.
So what’s been the biggest difference?
“Well, the guys seem pretty locked in defensively,” Hornacek told Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “The lineup we have, it’s a bigger lineup. We haven’t been getting hurt on the boards — it’s really a great rebounding lineup.”
The bigger lineup was necessitated by an ankle injury suffered by Brandon Knight. To combat Knight’s absence, Hornacek shifted P.J. Tucker from small forward to shooting guard and inserted Marcus Morris at the 3.
In the last four games, the Suns are outrebounding their opponents by an average of 51-39.
The lineup has also paid dividends on the defensive end.
“We’ve been able to put P.J. on the team’s highest scorer these last few games — the James Hardens, the Monta Ellises — and he’s limited them from having big nights and really put a stop to them and that’s helped us tremendously,” Hornacek said.
In last Saturday’s win over Houston, Tucker put the clamps on Harden — who is averaging 27 points per game — holding him to 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Before playing the Suns, Harden lit up Denver for 50 points and followed the Phoenix game with a 44-point outburst Monday night against Indiana.
The next night, Tucker and Co. held Dallas’ Ellis to 11 points on 4-of-22 shooting. Ellis leads the Mavericks in scoring at 19 points per game.
Hornacek also lauded the team’s recent late-game effort.
“I think that’s what they’re feeling right now. They’re confident and they know if we can get it in that fourth quarter — especially with this lineup — that we can pull out some of these games with our defense,” he said.