After suffering their only road loss to an Eastern Conference club, the Phoenix Suns hope a return home will help them regain their dominant form.
The Pacific Division leaders begin a five-game homestand Friday night against the streaky Indiana Pacers.
Phoenix (44-14) is 23-4 against the East, however it failed to become the first team in NBA history to sweep all 15 road games against the opposing conference with a 99-94 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“We just didn’t make enough shots tonight,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said. “They played a really good game and we played a sub-par game and they beat us. Someone out there wasn’t going to let us win all 15-road games in the East (Conference). Tonight we had a lot of good looks and just couldn’t make them.”
The defeat also prevented the Suns from sweeping a four-game road trip and halted their five-game winning streak that included a 103-92 win at Indiana on Tuesday.
Phoenix rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit in that victory and allowed only 13 points over the final 15 minutes.
“It’s disappointing, because we had a couple guys play exceptionally well,” said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, whose team has been idle since the loss. “You work so hard to get the lead, and they strike so quickly. It’s just a tough team to play.
“I’ve never seen a team that is able to play their style of game at their level. Nash is certainly the key guy, but they’ve got the right players around him.”
Nash, who left briefly in the first half against the 76ers to get a sore ankle taped, might have to do without starters Boris Diaw (back spasms) and Shawn Marion (left thigh bruise and hand injury). The duo did not play Wednesday after suffering the injuries at Indiana.
“Obviously we missed Marion. We missed Diaw, too,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The focus wasn’t there and we got a little sloppy at the end.”
If the Suns continue to be without the pair, it likely would mean more playing time for reserves Leandro Barbosa and Kurt Thomas. Barbosa struggled, going 4-for-16 from the field and finishing with 11 points while Thomas had 10 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Despite the ankle trouble, Nash still finished with 23 points and nine assists Wednesday after getting 25 and 11, respectively, against the Pacers. He leads the league with 11.8 assists per game and the two-time reigning NBA MVP is averaging a career-high 18.9 points.
Nash has averaged 23.7 points and 11.0 assists in helping Phoenix win three straight games against Indiana. The Suns—the league’s highest-scoring team with 110.7 points—have won six of the last seven home games against the Pacers, winning those games by an average of 17.5 points.
This is the second five-game homestand of the season for the Suns, who swept the first one from Jan. 5-13 and posted wins over three Eastern Conference teams.
The Pacers (29-27), whose last win at Phoenix came on Dec. 1, 2003, are hoping to avoid matching their season-high four-game slide from Jan. 12-20 as they open a four-contest road trip. They are 11-15 on the road with only one win in the last five games.
“It’s an important stretch for us. We’ve got to get wins,” Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy said of the swing that keeps the team on the road until a March 10 home meeting with Philadelphia.
Indiana has alternated three-game winning and losing streaks over the past 12 games.