The Phoenix Suns didn’t have any problems bouncing back after their first lengthy winning streak was ended. They may find it a bit tougher to start another one when they begin a difficult two-game homestand with a visit from the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.
The Suns had their 17-game winning streak snapped with a 121-112 loss to Minnesota on Monday in the finale of a five-game road trip for Phoenix, which had won 33 of the previous 35 games.
Phoenix (36-9) won 15 straight - then a franchise record - from Nov. 20-Dec. 19, then lost two of three before starting the new franchise-record 17-game run, which was one game shy of tying for the fourth-longest winning streak in NBA history.
“It’s too bad it ended,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said Wednesday. “I think we’re all really disappointed. It’s almost like losing a playoff game. But it doesn’t really mean a whole lot in the whole scheme of where we’re going. It was fun while it lasted. Now hopefully we can get on another.”
While the Suns have rebounded nicely from a 1-5 start to the season, they now face two teams that have handed them three of their nine losses. San Antonio beat Phoenix 111-106 in overtime on Nov. 8 and Utah - which visits on Saturday - has beaten the Suns twice this year.
“We haven’t played a ton of top teams lately, and for us to get a chance to play against the Spurs right now, I think it’s something we’ve been waiting for,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said after practice Wednesday. “It’s important for us to see where we are and see how much improvement we’ve made.”
Phoenix has won nine in a row at home since losing 144-139 in overtime to Washington on Dec. 22, the defeat that stopped its first long winning streak.
While the Suns are trying to stamp themselves as legitimate contenders for the NBA title, they still have to get past San Antonio (32-15), which has won two of the last four championships and has had plenty of success against Phoenix. The Spurs have won 18 of the last 22 meetings between the teams, including playoffs. San Antonio beat Phoenix 4-1 in the 2005 Western Conference finals.
“I don’t get caught up, and I hope my teammates don’t, in what (critics) say,” Suns guard Raja Bell said. “We know we’re a good team, and when it comes right down to the final table, we’ll be there ready to play. If we haven’t beaten San Antonio at that point, we’ll just have to beat them then.
“They’re a good team and always one of the best in the West,” Bell said. “We haven’t had as much success as we’d like (against the Spurs) the last couple of years, so it’ll be a good measuring stick for us. I think we’re up for it.”
The Spurs will be ready to get back on the court after a tough 97-93 loss to Utah on Wednesday night. San Antonio rallied from 12 points down to take the lead twice, but couldn’t hang on and fell to 1-1 on an eight-game road trip after stunning the Lakers 96-94 in overtime on Sunday.
“We’re making too many mistakes right now,” said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who had 25 points and 12 rebounds. “We’re giving up too many things in too many different areas.”
San Antonio - which had a three-game road winning streak snapped - faces six teams with winning records on this trip, plus games against New Jersey and reigning champion Miami.