At their best, the Suns are a high-octane, sharpshooting team that dictates the pace and wills the opposition to adapt.
Even with an injuryplagued lineup, that formula produced the longest winning streak in the NBA this season and had national pundits singing their praises.
But when the Suns aren’t running and the shots aren’t falling, switching gears isn’t easy. They are what they are, and that’s either going to be good enough or it isn’t.
Over the last three games, the Suns have lost players, their shooting eye, the ability to dictate pace — and their nine-game winning streak.
The NBA’s highestscoring team hasn’t cracked 100 points (averaging just 87.7) is shooting 43 percent from the field (107-for-246) and has been to the freethrow line a grand total of 15 times in its last two home games.
So why not go inside? Take better percentage shots? Earn more free throws? Coach Mike D’Antoni smiles at the mention of the idea.
"Yeah, and I want to date Raquel Welch, but I have no chance of doing that either," D’Antoni said. "Without Amaré, trying to slow down the game and go inside is kind of like that.
"When your strong suit isn’t working, you don’t change up and go to a weakness. We play the way we play, we just have to do it better."
The Suns have to do it better with three road games staring them in the face, against three teams (Dallas, New Orleans and Memphis) that each own one of the seven losses pinned on Phoenix so far this year. And they have to do it without Stoudemire, without Leandro Barbosa, without James Jones (at least for tonight against the Mavericks) and with several of the nine remaining bodies (Shawn Marion, Kurt Thomas, Pat Burke) playing through pain.
"We can make all the excuses and feel sorry for ourselves or we can come out and fight and raise our level. We’ve shown we can do that already," guard Steve Nash said.
It will help if Nash bounces back from a poor shooting night (5-for-13). If Boris Diaw snaps out of a four-game slump when the Suns need his inside game the most. If Eddie House (3-for-13) finds the mark and Jim Jackson, who missed all five of his shots and looked lost in Monday’s ugly 91-87 loss to the Hornets, can work his way back into the groove after being pushed out of the rotation for much of the season.
"Injuries are catching up with us, and the bullets we have left aren’t firing now," D’Antoni said. "Everyone hits stages like this, but when you are down to a little group, each person struggling is magnified."
BONUS SHOTS: Thomas (bruised and strained back) was able to practice after his hard fall late in the Hornets game, but is still very sore. . . . Burke can’t grab anything with his right hand right now and stared helplessly at one House pass Monday "because my arm wouldn’t go where I wanted it to." . . . Jones is shooting for a return Friday against the Hornets, but still has pain moving side to side.