The Phoenix Suns are rolling at the perfect time, preparing for a brutal end to their schedule that ultimately will decide their playoff fate.
A five-year postseason drought is likely to end for the Washington Wizards, but their recent play hasn’t pleased coach Randy Wittman.
Phoenix heads to the nation’s capital looking to match its season high with a fifth straight victory Wednesday night while avoiding a fourth consecutive defeat to the struggling Wizards.
The Suns (42-29) are enjoying their best season since Steve Nash helped them to 54 wins and the Western Conference finals in 2009-10, but they’re still locked in a fight with Memphis and Dallas for the final two playoff spots.
Phoenix has won six of seven – all since Eric Bledsoe rejoined the starting lineup – after a 102-95 victory over Atlanta on Monday, going 12 of 24 from 3-point range. Bledsoe hit all three of his 3-point attempts to break a 5-for-25 slump and scored 20 points, Goran Dragic added 19 and Channing Frye had 18 with four 3-pointers.
The Suns now look to sweep a three-game road trip before a pair of seemingly favorable matchups – against New York on Friday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday – though the schedule gets much more difficult from there. They’ll face the Clippers, Portland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Dallas and Memphis over their final eight.
"It’s about us," Frye said. "We have to play like we’re already in (the playoffs)."
More solid performances from Bledsoe and Dragic should help. Bledsoe recorded his third straight 20-point game Monday, while Dragic is shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 12 of 26 from 3-point range over his last seven.
"It’s unbelievable. Goran is a terrific competitor," Bledsoe said. "Off the court, he’s a good friend. We encourage each other and play off one another."
Phoenix will be looking to win five straight for the third time this season by avenging a 101-95 loss to the Wizards on Jan. 24.
John Wall had one of his career high-tying 26 double-doubles in that contest with 18 points and 12 assists, but he wasn’t nearly as good in Sunday’s 105-102 loss to Denver.
Wall had four assists – less than half his season average – and his eight turnovers were his most in two years as Washington had a season-high 24. The Wizards (36-34) have lost five of eight after a 1-3 road trip.
"We’re giving games away," Wittman said. "We aren’t going to beat anybody with 24 turnovers. Doesn’t matter who you’re playing, or who’s playing or who’s not playing, or where you’re playing. We’ve got to somehow handle the success that we have in a game better than we do."
Wittman was referring to the 14-point lead the Wizards held in the first quarter and subsequently lost due to carelessness with the ball. Three starters had at least four turnovers.
"Feel like we could’ve won this game (if) we opened it up," Wall said. "But we turned the ball over too much."
Washington holds the sixth seed in the East and has a good chance to appear in the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. That doesn’t mean they can take it easy down the stretch, though.
"We thought we were going to show up and just win the game versus showing up and taking the game," said Drew Gooden, averaging 16.6 points and shooting 61.1 percent off the bench over his last five.
Washington has averaged 106.5 points over its last six, though Phoenix has held three of its last four opponents below 100.
The Suns’ three-game losing streak in this series – which comes after 10 straight wins – is their longest in 25 years.