Suns hope to continue winning feeling, set to host Goran Dragic

Jan 7, 2016, 7:00 PM
Phoenix Suns' Jeff Hornacek shouts to one of his players during the second half of an NBA basketbal...
Phoenix Suns' Jeff Hornacek shouts to one of his players during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Hornets 111-102. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX, Ariz. – How the Phoenix Suns finally re-entered the win column was really quite simple, according to forward P.J. Tucker.

“In the end, it was our (defensive) stops that won the game,” he said, following Wednesday’s 111-102 victory over Charlotte.

It had been nine games and 19 days since the Suns last walked off the court winners.

The trick now is to build upon that momentum.

“It gets worse now,” Tucker said, “because you can’t go back on another losing streak. We got to win. We got to get some wins. We got games to make up.”

The Suns will look to take a step in that direction on Friday when they host the Miami Heat to close out this brief two-game homestand.

During their recent season-long nine-game losing streak, the Suns allowed the highest opponent field goal percentage (50.4) in the NBA.

Against Charlotte, however, the Suns looked like a top-tier defensive team with stops on the Hornets’ final four possessions. Charlotte played the final 2:02 without making a basket and shot 43.7 percent overall, right in line with their season mark of 43.4 percent, fifth-worst in the league.

It was the Suns’ best defensive effort since holding New Orleans to 36.6 percent shooting on Dec. 18, also the date of their last victory.

Aside from better defense, head coach Jeff Hornacek pointed to better ball movement on the offensive end.

“They made quick decisions, they swung the ball, they trusted each other and when you do that — you just make the easy pass and hit the next available guy it eventually comes back to you,” he said. “They passed up shots that probably were good shots for the great shot, and that’s how you win.”

Giving veteran point guard Ronnie Price the start, his first of the season — and the Suns’ 11th different starting lineup — helped keep the ball moving, according to Hornacek.

The Suns ended each of the first three quarters with seven assists and finished with 25, eight more than they had two nights earlier at the L.A. Lakers.

Whether or not Price remains a part of that first unit and make his second straight start will likely depend on how he feels following shootaround in the morning.

Price is dealing with a sore toe.

“He’s probably questionable for the next game.  It’s something that’s going to linger on him. He’s tough and he plays through it,” Hornacek said Thursday. “He went and got an MRI today, and the initial word — I’m not sure it’s the final word — is that he’s got a little piece in there that’s an old piece that’s kind of floating around and irritating. It’s just a matter of getting it feeling better now.”

The Suns have not won back-to-back games since early December.

The matchup against the Heat, a team that had won three in a row until losing at home to the New York Knicks this week, marks the return of former point guard Goran Dragic, who called out Suns management as he asked for a trade last February.

The Suns accepted his request and dealt him to Miami for two first-round draft picks in a multi-player, three-team trade minutes before the trade deadline.

“It’s always tough when you have a guy and he wants to leave, but we all like Goran,” Hornacek said. “It’s unfortunate the way things ended up being but I guess that stuff happens and you move on.”

Dragic is one of three ex-Suns on the Heat roster, joining Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire.

“It’ll be a fun game; all those guys, all the ex-Suns guys coming back. They’ll be amped up to play,” Tucker said, “and we’ll want to get it going and try to keep this little win feeling going.  I think it’s going to be a good game.”

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