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Phoenix Suns rookie T.J. Warren provides bright spot in loss to Golden State

After an 18-point home loss to the Golden State Warriors Monday night, it’s looking more and more like the Phoenix Suns will fail to make the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Phoenix trails Oklahoma City by three full games for the final Western Conference playoff spot with 17 games remaining.

So Phoenix may be in “silver lining mode” — reduced to looking for bright spots for the remainder of the season as they once again land in the draft lottery.

There was one definite bright spot Monday night, and that was the play of rookie forward T.J. Warren.

The first-round pick out of North Carolina State played a career-high 24 minutes and tied a career-high with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor.

He also drew praise from his head coach.

“Makes sense, cut and you get the ball and get easier shots. T.J. is great at that,” Jeff Hornacek said after the game. “Hopefully the more the guys see him doing it, maybe the other guys will pick up on it.”

Warren scored six of his points in the second half, when the Suns managed only 34 points on 35.1 percent shooting from the floor. His movement without the ball provides a different offensive ingredient for the Suns, a team that has been mired in a lot of one-on-one play in recent weeks.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find a way to be effective without the basketball as far as cutting and in transition,” Warren said. “Trying to find a way to be effective when I’m out there.”

After numerous shuttles between Phoenix and the Suns’ D-League affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif., Warren is getting semi-consistent playing time for the first time this season. The 6-foot-8 forward has played in five of the Suns’ last six contests, averaging 6.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor.

“It feels good to get the opportunity to get comfortable out there,” he said. “Just trying to build my confidence as we move forward and just go play hard every time I get the chance.”