Nets-Suns Preview

BY foxsports • February 24, 2016

If draft positioning is the present goal, the Phoenix Suns are playing the game well.

Losers of 12 straight, the NBA's worst team over the past two months hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night in a game that could impact their chances in this year's lottery.

Injuries and personnel changes have led to Phoenix (14-43) losing 27 of 29 to record the league's third-lowest win total, one less than Brooklyn (15-42) and just three ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, whom the Suns will face twice in March. The Suns are on pace for their worst finish since going 16-66 in their 1968-69 NBA debut.

Phoenix also stands one loss away from its longest skid since an 0-13 start in 1996-97 after trailing throughout Monday's 124-84 drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers.

"The process we are going through right now is we are finding out the mental toughness of our team," interim coach Earl Watson said Tuesday on his weekly radio show. "More than anything, we do not make excuses. We come out and we compete and whatever the result is we are accountable for that result."

Watson, 0-8 since replacing Jeff Hornacek on Feb. 1, may have his best opportunity yet for a breakthrough. The Nets are 4-20 on the road and have lost seven straight as the visitors after opening a season-high nine-game trek with Tuesday's 112-104 defeat at Portland.

Brooklyn has no incentive to tank, however, as its 2016 first-rounder is owned by Boston as part of the ill-fated 2013 trade which brought in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. And the Nets have been competitive of late, going 3-4 after losing 15 of 17.

They did give the red-hot Trail Blazers a challenge, battling back from a 14-point first-quarter deficit and a 19-point margin in the third to briefly move ahead in the fourth. The game was tied at 101 with two minutes left before Portland closed on an 11-3 run for its sixth straight win.

''We had a lot more energy (in the second half) and we knuckled down on defense and got some stops,'' center Brook Lopez said. ''We came out a bit relaxed. I don't know what it was. There really is no excuse to start that way.''

Lopez led the near-comeback with a season-high 36 points and is averaging 24.8 over the last 11 games. He had 23 in a 94-91 home victory over Phoenix on Dec. 1, helping the Nets amass a 50-34 advantage in the paint.

Brooklyn hasn't won when scoring under 100 since that result, having dropped 21 straight when failing to reach that mark.

Getting there may not be too difficult against Phoenix, which has yielded 101 or more in 24 of 29. The Suns have been particularly dreadful defensively in three games since the All-Star break, allowing opponents to average 119.3 points and make 46.9 percent of their 3-point attempts.

The Nets, though, are 8 of 34 from beyond the arc over their past two games.

Phoenix is expected to have center Tyson Chandler back from a two-game absence caused by a bruised shoulder. Alex Len totaled 37 points and 21 rebounds starting in his place but is questionable after spraining an ankle in Wednesday's practice.

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