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After loss to Utah Jazz, Phoenix has almost lost grip on playoff berth

Published February 26, 2014 11:26 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Phoenix Suns' seasonlong hold on a Western Conference playoff berth has almost slipped away.

After Utah rolled to a 109-86 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena, the Suns held onto eighth place in the West by one-half game over surging Memphis.

The loss was their third straight.

The Suns have lost as many as three in a row only two other times during their surprisingly successful season.

"We're just in a little funk," said Gerald Green, who led Phoenix with 17 points Wednesday. "Every team goes through that. We'll just try to figure out what's wrong — go back to the drawing board and don't panic. We've still got seven weeks of basketball to go. … I think we'll be able to turn it around."

Coach Jeff Hornacek is thinking the same thing.

"We had a four-game losing streak earlier this season," he said, "but we bounced back and had a pretty good run. ... You just kind of flush this one away."

Losing to Utah for the second time in four games this season, the Suns struggled without leading scorer Goran Dragic. He missed the game because of an ankle injury.

Phoenix shot only 38.8 percent from the field, including 6-for-19 from the three-point line.

Defensively, the Suns watched the Jazz shoot 56.8 percent, including 9-for-18 on threes.

"We've got to ... get better," Hornacek said. "We're a fast-breaking team that relies on getting stops and getting steals. When you don't do that, you struggle, especially with some main guys out."

Said Channing Frye, "Right now we're not hitting on all cylinders. ... Tonight we couldn't get stops. That's been our problem [lately]. We need to figure it out and turn it back on."

The Suns' trouble on defense started in the opening minutes.

Utah made eight of its first 11 field-goal attempts, including five in a row to start the game.

"We were trading baskets with them early," Hornacek said. "You can't do that. They had their confidence going from there."

The Suns were within five, 60-55, early in the third quarter before Utah pulled away.

"... It looked like we just ran out of gas," Hornacek said.