The Phoenix Suns find themselves in very rare territory when it comes to the history of their franchise, and it’s not the good kind.
Monday night’s 124-84 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was not only tied for the third-biggest loss in franchise history, it was the Suns’ 12th in a row.
The team is also in the midst of only its ninth double-digit single-season losing streak in its history, which dates back to 1968. A loss Thursday night against the woeful Brooklyn Nets (15-41) at Talking Stick Resort Arena would tie the longest single-season Suns’ losing skid at 13 games.
The 1996-97 Suns lost their first 13 games under head coaches Cotton Fitzsimmons and Danny Ainge, but rebounded to go 40-29 the rest of the season and make the playoffs. That’s not happening this year.
Here’s a brief history of the Suns’ double-digit losing streaks.
The expansion Suns had two double-digit losing streaks in that first year. After going a surprising 5-5 in their first 10 games, Johnny “Red” Kerr’s team reeled off 12 straight losses from Nov. 14 through Dec. 3. The streak started with a two-point loss to the Detroit Pistons in a neutral site game played in Tucson and a double-overtime loss on the road against the Seattle SuperSonics.
Later in the season, the Suns had another 10-game skid that started with a 131-117 road loss to the Baltimore Bullets, who were led by future NBA coach Kevin Loughery’s 30 points.
John MacLeod took over the coaching duties, becoming the Suns’ fifth head coach (counting two interim stints by Jerry Colangelo) in their first six seasons. MacLeod’s team limped out of the gates, going 4-15 in its first 19 games, including a 10-game losing streak that started with a 116-112 loss to the Seattle Supersonics on the road. In fact, nine of the ten losses during this stretch came away from Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.
MacLeod’s second year on the job saw an overall two-game improvement from 30 to 32 wins, but also saw another double-digit losing streak. The ’74-75 Suns dropped 10 straight from March 7 through March 22, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers three times during the skid.
Just one year following their first trip to the NBA Finals, the Suns fell on hard times again, going 34-48. They also reeled off 12 straight losses during one stretch from Feb. 19 through March 13. The streak started with three road losses in four days in Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo and ended with five more on the road at Washington, San Antonio, Houston, New York and Boston. And yes, with only 22 teams in the league, the travel schedule was BRUTAL.
It would be 12 more seasons until the Suns would lose at least 10 in a row again. The season after MacLeod was fired, former assistant John Wetzel took over on the bench and guided the Suns to a forgettable 28-54 mark that included a 10-game skid. James Worthy scored 25 points to lead the Lakers to a 107-96 win at the “Madhouse on McDowell” to start the streak on Jan. 16. The 10th loss featured a 37-point performance from Michael Jordan, as the Bulls beat the Suns 113-101 on Feb. 4.
The Suns were a mess at the beginning of the campaign. They had traded Charles Barkley to the Houston Rockets in the offseason in exchange for Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant, Sam Cassell and Robert Horry. Phoenix started the season on the road against the Lakers with a starting lineup of Cassell and Wesley Person in the backcourt, Horry and A.C. Green at the forwards and Joe Kleine at center. Needless to say, things didn’t go well. They lost, 96-82 — the first of 13 straight losses to start the season. They would snap the streak with a 99-77 win over New Jersey on Nov. 27., a game that went down as the first NBA head coaching win for Danny Ainge.
Note: Although this is the longest single-season losing streak in Suns’ history, the record is actually 14 straight, as Phoenix dropped the final game of the 1995-96 season as well.
Seventeen years would pass before the Suns would lose 10 or more in a row. Under interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, the Suns dropped an 88-79 decision to the Washington Wizards on March 20, starting a skid that would include blowout losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves (31 points) and the Los Angeles Clippers (25). They finally broke the streak with a 102-91 road win over the Dallas Mavericks on Apr. 10 as Goran Dragic scored 21 points and handed out 13 assists.
Four seasons later, and another interim head coach in charge. This time, it’s Earl Watson, who has seen eight of the Suns’ 12 straight defeats come under his watch. The streak began on the road in Philadelphia, where the Suns lost to the woeful 76ers, who were 6-39 heading into the contest. Phoenix has also been besieged by injuries during this skid and has been forced to play five players signed to 10-day contracts (Lorenzo Brown, Cory Jefferson, Jordan McRae, Orlando Johnson and Phil Pressey).
Phoenix Suns’ Double-Digit Losing Streaks
|Season||Streak||W-L Before||W-L After||Final Record||Home Losses||Road Losses||Avg. Defeat|
* – Includes neutral site games played in Tucson, New York and Hartford
- Suns Strokes: Defense shrinks during first half in loss to Pelicans
- Arizona sports teams, athletes offer Thanksgiving well wishes
- The 5: Things to be thankful for as an Arizona sports fan in 2017
- Booker’s late heroics can’t bring Suns win in Bledsoe’s return to Phoenix
- Eric Bledsoe’s return to Phoenix among Wednesday’s NBA storylines