The Phoenix Suns are taking advantage of a stretch against weaker opponents, but still haven’t made up much ground in the Western Conference. Adding to the frustration is that they’ll be without Leandro Barbosa for at least a week.
The Suns look to win four in a row for the first time this season as they host the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
Phoenix (37-31) has won its last three by an average of 15 points, but it hasn’t faced tough competition during the stretch, beating Golden State and Oklahoma City—both already eliminated from the playoff race—before recording a 126-116 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The winning streak hasn’t helped the Suns’ playoff position, however. They are four games behind Dallas for the eighth and final spot in the West and now will have to continue their push for a fifth straight playoff appearance without one of their leading scorers.
Barbosa will miss one to three weeks after hyperextending his left knee in Wednesday’s win, according to the Suns’ official Web site. An MRI revealed no ligament damage, but a bone bruise will keep him off the court.
“Just looking at the injury when it happened, it could’ve been a lot worse,” Suns athletic trainer Aaron Nelson said.
The loss of Barbosa is a huge blow to the Suns, who were already without leading scorer Amare Stoudemire, who suffered a season-ending eye injury Feb. 18. Barbosa is averaging 14.3 points, but totaled 43 points in wins over the Thunder and Warriors prior to Wednesday.
Despite missing two of their top four scorers, the Suns believe they can still continuing running their offense like usual. Barbosa suffered his injury early in the first quarter, but Phoenix shot 57.6 percent and has averaged 128.7 points during its winning streak.
With Barbosa out, the Suns will turn more to Jason Richardson, who has averaged 28.0 points in the last two games. He had 25 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday’s win.
(Coach Alvin Gentry) told me that he wanted me to step up and that’s exactly what I did,” Richardson said. “I was going out there and trying to be aggressive.”
Phoenix has won four straight over Washington (16-54), which has the worst record in the East. The Suns recorded a 103-87 win over the Wizards on Jan. 26 behind 29 points from Shaquille O’Neal.
Washington lost its third straight Friday, falling 116-105 to Denver. Antawn Jamison scored 27 points and JaVale McGee added 13 and 11 rebounds, but with only nine players available because of injuries to Juan Dixon and Caron Butler, the Wizards faded late. They cut the lead to seven early in the fourth but Denver responded with a game-breaking 12-2 run.
“We’re used to it by now,” Jamison, who is averaging 26.0 points in the last five games, said of the injuries. “The difficult part is not having Juan Dixon able to play and Darius Songaila is really banged up. So we might be shorter than what we are. Nobody will feel sorry for us. We have to play through it. We have a lot of practice at this.”
Jamison is averaging 27.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his last two games against Phoenix.
The Wizards are 5-30 on the road.