Since they had just finished a stretch of four games in five nights, the Suns were more than likely going to take Sunday off. But after Saturday’s 101-91 loss to the Clippers ripped through their bench depth, the Suns had no choice — they don’t have enough healthy players right now to even hold a scrimmage.
Just two days after returning from a Grade 2 sprain of the left knee, guard Leandro Barbosa suffered the same injury, to the same place, with four minutes left to play. Barbosa, who missed almost three weeks (eight games) the first time, is back on crutches and likely out at least that long again.
The Suns were a perfect 8-0 without Barbosa but relied on their depth, which is now depleted by more injuries. Forward James Jones suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the left ankle in the first half against the Clippers and is also out for tonight’s meeting with the New Orleans Hornets at America West Arena.
Jones, who landed on the foot of Clippers forward Elton Brand, initially thought he had a broken ankle, but by the end of the game was talking about a quick return. But with a Grade 2 sprain, he’ll have trouble being ready for the three-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Dallas.
That leaves Phoenix with 10 players tonight, and center Pat Burke is still experiencing muscle spasms in his upper back into the shoulder and neck area. He gutted out a few minutes against the Clippers.
Veteran Jim Jackson — who hasn’t played since Barbosa returned Friday against the Knicks — will once again join the rotation and help spell the starter, who will play heavy minutes this week.
Other Suns are hurting. Shawn Marion led Phoenix with 20 points Saturday despite a sore back that had him prone on the locker room floor before the game. Guard Eddie House missed a game last week with a hamstring pull and Phoenix would like to limit his minutes but can’t.
After all that, the Suns still might have won their 10th straight game if not for an eight-minute scoreless drought in the fourth quarter against a Clippers team that is 9-1 at home. Now Phoenix will focus on winning its ninth straight at home against the Hornets, who have lost five straight and fell in overtime to a Portland team the Suns beat by 45 last week.