The struggling Suns look to avoid a third straight loss overall and fourth in a row at home while trying for their sixth consecutive victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
Phoenix (25-20) lost 122-111 to Chicago on Saturday to end January with a 7-8 record. It was the Suns first losing month since going 3-4 during April 2004.
The Suns, who have lost seven of their last 10 games, are 12-10 at home this season. That’s not exactly stellar for a club that hasn’t lost more than 11 games there in any of the last four seasons. Phoenix has not dropped four straight at home since a five-game losing streak from March 6-19, 2004.
“We’ve been talking about this all year - trying to figure out a way to change things or get better - so I don’t know,” forward Amare Stoudemire said of the Suns, who hold a one-half game lead over Utah for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. “We ask players to try and figure it out, coaching staff and everybody is trying to figure it out, but right now no progress.”
That could change - at least for one night - against Sacramento (11-38), which has lost 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Suns, including five in a row at Phoenix.
Leandro Barbosa scored a season-high 32 points while Grant Hill added 19 and Shaquille O’Neal 18 on Saturday. Despite shooting 52.9 percent, Phoenix was outrebounded 12-4 on the offensive end by the Bulls, who shot 50 percent from the field.
“We talked about coming out and having energy and setting a tone, but we just didn’t do it,” Suns coach Terry Porter said. “It was a disappointing loss for us.”
Allowing 103.4 points on the season, the Suns have given up an average of 118.0 in their latest two losses to San Antonio and Chicago.
Phoenix wasn’t as generous defensively in its last meeting with Sacramento, but still needed overtime to beat the Kings 97-95 on the road Nov. 14.
Stoudemire scored the winner with 4.5 seconds left in that contest. O’Neal finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds, while Hill added 22 and nine boards for the Suns, who played without Barbosa and Steve Nash.
O’Neal is averaging 27.6 points and 11.9 rebounds during his career versus Sacramento.
An ankle injury kept Sacramento’s Kevin Martin out of the last meeting with Phoenix, but he enters this one coming off a 37-point effort on his birthday in the Kings’ 122-118 overtime home win over Oklahoma City on Sunday.
The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak for Sacramento, which held a players-only meeting Saturday and now tries to win consecutive games for the first time since winning three in a row from Nov. 5-9.
“I think it helped,” center Spencer Hawes said of the meeting. “But the big thing was we got the win.”
Martin is averaging 24.4 points in 27 games this season, but just 13.5 in 13 all-time contests versus the Suns.