Nash out again as Suns visit Bobcats
GameTrax: Stats and more
By MATT BROWN
The last time the Phoenix Suns lost three in a row was also the last time they visited Charlotte.
Trying to avoid a repeat, the Suns may benefit from Steve Nash's return from a one-game absence Saturday night against the Bobcats.
Phoenix (6-6) has lost the first two matchups on its four-game road trip in lopsided fashion, following Wednesday's 123-96 loss at Miami with a 105-89 defeat at Orlando on Thursday, when Nash sat out for the first time this season due to a sore groin.
Without him, the Suns fell behind by as many as 32 before the Magic emptied their bench.
"Trust me. I've come to Florida before and lost twice, too," said Grant Hill, a bright spot for Phoenix with a team-high 21 points against Orlando. "It's always tough to lose on national television twice. But we've got some new guys. We're still learning each other. It's a long season."
An extended period without Nash would make the season seem much longer. Since he rejoined the team in 2004-05, Phoenix is 9-18 when Nash is out of the lineup, and 329-148 when he does play.
Fortunately for the Suns, coach Alvin Gentry said his superstar point guard probably could have played, but there was no reason to push the injury. Nash, who was healthy enough to do shooting and light running shortly before Thursday's game, is expected to be in the lineup in Charlotte.
"Everything on that team revolves around Steve Nash, so they didn't have him (Thursday) and they struggled," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They're an up-and-down team that scores a lot of points. And without Steve Nash, it's hard for them to play at that pace."
The Suns have found it surprisingly hard to play against the Bobcats (4-8) recently. After winning the first eight meetings between the franchises they've dropped three of the last four, including their last two visits to Charlotte and a sweep of last season's two-game series.
In a situation oddly similar to its current one, Phoenix fell to 0-3 on a four-game trip with a 125-99 loss to the Bobcats on Jan. 16, when Charlotte limited Nash to five points and five assists. The Suns, who also lost the finale of that trip in Memphis, have not dropped three in a row since.
They'll wrap up their current trip Monday at Houston.
The Bobcats had won three of four prior to a 95-87 loss Friday in Miami. Stephen Jackson had a team-high 30 points, including a 3-pointer with 4:56 remaining that gave Charlotte, which had trailed by as many as 21 in the second quarter, a short-lived lead.
"If we would have played like that at the beginning of the game we wouldn't be down and have to fight back," Jackson said. "That's what we need to do, bring that same intensity that we brought in the second half in the first quarter and we'll be OK."
Jackson also scored 30 in Charlotte's 114-109 overtime victory at Phoenix on Jan. 26 to complete the season series sweep.