Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 2/16/12
PHOENIX -- For the Phoenix Suns, this week's itinerary has been pretty simple -- wake up, get ready for game, play game, lose game. Repeat. Then repeat again. Three games in three nights with the same result. "It sounds like it's Groundhog Day all over again," Suns swingman Jared Dudley said after Wednesday's 101-99 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at U.S. Airways Center followed defeats in Oakland and Denver. "We had a lead, a double-digit lead, and they came back. It's happened a little too often; we're having these dry spells of scoring. "Obviously, it happened today. It happened, obviously, in Denver. It happened in Golden State." Obviously, in the NBA's post-lockout hay ride, going 0-3 in their first of two back-to-back-to-back challenges means the Suns now sit at 12-18 with eight of those defeats occurring in their 13 home games. "I think that's the biggest thing for us," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said . "We played good enough basketball on the road that if we were playing like we are supposed to at home, then our record would be so much different and we'd be right in the middle of the playoffs. "But you still got to play them and still got to win them at home. I don't know why we just seem to struggle at home." Well, the Suns -- as you probably noticed -- are pretty formidable at finding ways to lose in any zip code. Despite making 53.6 percent of their shots from the field and going an all-to-rare plus-five in the rebounding derby against Atlanta, the Suns moonwalked back to mediocrity by committing 20 turnovers. The Hawks, who were dragged to victory by Josh Smith (30 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 blocked shots), converted the sloppy ballhandling into 19 points. Phoenix also went into a minor offensive funk against the 2-3 zone defense Atlanta rolled out in the second half. The Suns, who played a little zone with some success against the Hawks, weren't exactly shocked when this tactic was thrown at them. But the Suns are a rhythm team, and the Atlanta zone was just crusty enough to sidetrack an offense that generated 67-percent shooting in the first half. "It affected us," Dudley admitted. "It definitely did ... we didn't score." For most of the night, it seemed the three gamesthree nights variable wasn't going to be a huge problem. The Hawks weren't working under the same conditions, but did play against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The Suns also were a bit frisky at two starting positions, because Steve Nash and Grant Hill didn't play in the loss at Denver. The move looked pretty savvy, too. Nash knocked in 20 points and handed out 16 assists. He also was assessed a technical foul by referee Tre Maddox for apparently doing nothing more than making a strategy-related inquiry to Gentry during a free-throw break. And Hill, aside from having Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson on lockdown (all 6 of Joe's points came against other defenders), made 8 of 11 shots and finished with 18 points. But aside from decent outings from rookie Markieff Morris and veteran guard Michael Redd, the Suns received meager contributions from their bench. Collectively, Atlanta's subs also were far from transcendent, although Willie Green (20 points) made the Suns pay for several poor rotations out of pick-and-roll blitzes, knocking in 4 of 6 from 3-point range. In just a little over one compressed week, the Suns have flipped from a team winning four of its last five games to a team that's now lost four of five. Their next test is a home-and-home series with the Lakers that starts Friday in L.A. and returns to Arizona on Sunday night. While taking on the Lakers may not be as difficult this season, it should be noted that 23 of the Suns' last 33 games will co-star teams with (for now) winning records. That's a slightly higher rate than the 17 of 30 they've seen thus far. A more positive spin might be in order if they'd demonstrated a less hospitable nature at home. "Yeah, it's frustrating," Dudley said. "If it was in your backyard and you're losing like this; the point is you've got to find ways to win, especially at home, especially when you have a double-digit lead."
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