Good news for Suns fans: Their team won’t have to play again at home until March 28.
The Suns continued their march toward one of the most bizarre records ever Friday night when they were defeated — with surprising going-away ease — by the Golden State Warriors, 110-100.
The loss at America West Arena drops their home record to 23-9. Considering they have a best-in-the-NBA road mark of 25-7, the Suns seem poised to finish with a better record on the road than at home for the first time in franchise history (and for one of the few times in NBA annals).
This was the Suns’ second straight loss at home, sandwiched by an important road win at Denver.
So what gives? Aren’t teams supposed to be more formidable at home?
"For whatever reason, we seem more motivated on the road," said the Suns’ Steve Nash. "It’s very frustrating."
Agreed coach Mike D’Antoni, "We are getting in a bad habit at home."
The Suns seem too comfortable at home, he suggested.
"We need to get out of our little nest, or comfort level, and play harder."
"It’s weird," Quentin Richardson said.
"We’re kind of in a lull at home. We need to get it straightened out down the stretch."
More important, the loss could be a killer in the Suns’ attempt to finish with the NBA’s best record this season.
They’re now 48-16, one and one-half games behind San Antonio. The Spurs also own the tie-breaker with the Suns.
"We gotta want to get better," said Amaré Stoudemire, who led the Suns with 31 points. "That should cure it."
At the same time, he pointed out, "This is our first year together. We’ve got to get a little tune-up."
The Warriors (22-44) were led by Baron Davis, who dropped in 33 points thanks to uncanny 7-of-10 shooting on 3-pointers.
"Everything they threw up went in," Nash said of the Warriors, who shot 12-of-27 from long range, while the Suns countered with only 5-of-23.
"They made all the big shots, and we didn’t make any," D’Antoni said.
"A lot of times, it’s not a complicated game."
The only bright note for the Suns: With the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss Friday, the Suns’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is two.
As for the Warriors, they look a little like the Suns last year.
They are 6-6 since the trade for Davis. But the wins, coming after they’ve dropped out of the playoff race, do nothing much except cost them ping-pong balls for the NBA draft lottery.
Said Stoudemire, "They made incredible shots. When you’re not contesting for the playoffs, you can play loose."
The Suns hope whatever is ailing them will be cured next week, when they play five games on the road.
D’Antoni is being cautious about being drawn into the question of which possible Round One playoff opponent best suits the Suns.
"I don’t know how you can tell," he said.
Whoever finishes No. 8 (the Suns’ opponent if the Suns end up No. 1 in the West) "will be a dangerous team," one that might be viewed as underachieving but talented. Such a label could apply to any of the three teams battling for the final spot: Denver, Minnesota or the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Teams that were supposed to be way up there, fell," D’Antoni said. For example, "Minnesota could be a heck of a (playoff team)."
Then in an observation that could well have been made by Cotton Fitzsimmons, the night’s honoree, the Suns coach said, "If we play our own game, and play as well as we can play, we’ll be fine."
The Suns could well end up at the No. 2 spot and play Memphis, their opponent in a nationally televised game at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Some day, the Suns might scratch their heads and wonder why they didn’t get more out of Zarko Cabarkapa, the No. 17 overall pick in the 2003 draft.
With Mike Dunleavy out Monday vs. Houston, "Z" had a career night with 26 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes for the Warriors. He knocked down five 3-pointers, which might shock Suns fans who rarely saw him make a shot that wasn’t at point blank-range.
"I need to show everybody I can play this game," he told the Contra Costa Times.
On the floor with Jason Richardson, Baron Davis and Derek Fisher, Cabarkapa was the star.
"We weren’t ready for him," Houston’s Tracy McGrady said of Cabarkapa.
Against the Suns, Cabarkapa had eight points and five rebounds in 18 solid minute off the bench.
Walter McCarty played three minutes then left with back spasms. The Suns don’t believe the problem is serious. . . . Marion was credited with an early tip-in that actually was scored by Stoudemire. "I tipped it in," Stoudemire said. "But it’s cool." Marion didn’t sound like he would try to correct the box score. "They mess the books up all the time," he said.