Suns notebook: No end in sight to freefall

BY foxsports • January 16, 2012

A four-game losing streak is bad enough. But with a road trip that still has stops in Chicago, New York, Boston and Dallas, you have to wonder how far this freefall might go for the Suns.

The Suns started slowly and went downhill from there in the first half Sunday against the Spurs, who are undefeated at home and don't need the kind of charity Phoenix was offering. The Suns played better in the second half, and their bench cut the 19-point deficit to five points late before San Antonio closed out a 102-91 win.

The Suns continue to struggle with accuracy. In what might have been his swan song in the starting lineup, Channing Frye missed all seven of his shots from the floor and provided 18 scoreless minutes. Grant Hill (four points in 23 minutes) is an offensive liability at this point, and Michael Redd (0 for 4, two points in 13 minutes) is still working himself into shape.

"Once again, we dug ourselves a hole and we spend most of our time trying to get ourselves out of it," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. "On the flip side, we continued to play, as we were within 94-89 at one point. We just have to continue to work, as we have some new guys trying to fit in as well as some rookies still trying to find themselves."

It was a hopeful sign that the bench cut into the San Antonio lead and Markieff Morris (14 points), Shannon Brown (10 points) and Ronnie Price (seven assists) led the charge.

"We just didn't quit," Hill said. "We fought hard. The problem was we gave them a big lead. When you're down 19 against a good team, you spend so much energy trying to get back in the game. We fought hard, we're playing hard and we're not playing to our fullest potential. But we're certainly playing hard. There's never any quit."

Quit or not, losses to the Lakers, Cavaliers, Nets and Spurs have the
Suns sitting 4-8 at a point where they hoped to be 6-6 at the very
least.

NOTES, QUOTES

--
There are only four Suns left from the team that swept the Spurs in the 2010 Western Conference semifinals: Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Robin Lopez and Steve Nash. And any resemblance between that team and the one that dropped to 4-8 on the season with its fourth straight loss was purely coincidental.

One area that was a throwback to the good old days was the two-man game, with Marcin Gortat taking the role formerly played by Amar'e Stoudemire. Gortat missed his first four shots but finally found his rhythm and ended up with 24 points and 15 rebounds while on the end of many of Steve Nash's 10 assists. Nash also stepped back and hit the jumper when necessary.

"I thought we did a great job of reading situations in the game and using the pick-and-roll at appropriate times, with Steve making the shot," Gentry said. "We're still not shooting it like we're capable of and we're not scoring like we're capable of, but the shots were there. We just have to get the confidence to step up and knock them down."

-- The Suns' offense is still in lockout mode. Even with Nash and Hill back in the starting lineup, the Suns managed just eight points in the first eight minutes and fell behind by 19 points in the second quarter while missing 17 of their first 23 shots. They finished with just 16 points in the quarter, tying a season low for the second time. A team used to scoring at will now struggles each night.

"We played a lot more decisively in the second half and got ourselves in a more competitive position," Nash said. "We have such little room for error. If we have a slow patch, we're getting down 15 or 20 points."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You just can't spot them 19, especially playing at home. It was an uphill battle from there." -- Suns coach Alvin Gentry.

ROSTER REPORT

-- G Steve Nash returned Sunday against San Antonio after missing Friday's game with a charley horse and responded with 20 points and 10 assists in 35 minutes. Nash was Phoenix's only offensive option early in the game and kept the team from falling out of it early.

-- C Marcin Gortat recorded his third 20-point effort of the season and the 10th of his career (all with the Suns) with 24 points and 15 rebounds Sunday against the San Antonio. Gortat also recorded his ninth career 20-10 game (all with the Suns). The NBA's leader in field-goal percentage, Gortat finished 11 of 20 for the night, which actually lowered his 63.3 percent clip coming in.

-- F Grant Hill returned to the lineup but is still struggling with both knee and groin problems. It showed Sunday, as Hill managed just four points, took just five shots and gutted out 23 minutes. It might be in the Suns' best interest to sit Hill for an extended period and give him a chance to rebound.

ROTATION

-- Point guard Steve Nash
-- Shooting guard Jared Dudley
-- Small forward Grant Hill
-- Power forward Channing Frye
-- Center Marcin Gortat

-- Guard Michael Redd
-- Forward Hakim Warrick
-- Shooting guard Shannon Brown
-- Point guard Ronnie Price
-- Center Robin Lopez
-- Forward Markieff Morris


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