Before the Phoenix Suns tipped off against the Miami Heat, I asked coach Jeff Hornacek if he talked to the guys about their penchant for lacking energy on the second night of back-to-back sets this year.
"We're not going to bring it up," he said with a chuckle. "Maybe they will forget about it."
Forget or not, the Suns ran with the same script they've used on every prior back to back: come out flat and struggle to compete. The only thing that kept the Suns in the game was hot three-point shooting, but in the end the Suns had the only game in franchise history in which they converted 17+ three-point shots but still didn't break 100 points on the night.
The Suns scored 0 points in the paint in the fourth quarter and only 24 for the game. They had only 7 points in transition (after averaging more than 24 fast break points per game over the last four games). Some of that was the Miami defense that packed the paint and stripped the ball from drivers, and some of that was the Suns being a step slow to every spot and even on the fast break.
"We were just a step slow," Hornacek said. "I think it was just tiredness, because they couldn't think. We ran the wrong things about four-straight times."
When asked if it was mental or physical fatigue, PG Goran Dragic wasn't sure.
"We were fighting yesterday," he said of the Clipper game on Monday night. "Tonight, we just...when you're tired your head is thinking you can do that but then your body cannot follow it. But maybe both (mental and physical). It was a lot of games in that week but that's not an excuse."
Of the Heat, coach Hornacek gave plenty of credit.
"They're a veteran team," he said. "(Chris) Bosh and (Dwyane) Wade - these guys have won championships, so they know all those little things that they can do at the end of the game and they did them."
The Heat had come in as losers of four straight games, and it was clear in their locker room that a win over Phoenix was a great relief.
"It was a great team effort," small forward Luol Deng said afterward. "I think what we did tonight was we stayed in the game. Going into the fourth quarter, we were up one or down one, I'm not sure, but on the bench we got together and just said 12 minutes to go. Lately we haven't been in games in the fourth quarter. As long as we give ourselves a chance every game, especially on the road, we'll come up with a win."
Miami has now won 9 consecutive games against the Phoenix Suns.
Here's the Suns interviews:
While Goran was a conversationalist, the other players were not. The Morris brothers declined interviews, while Gerald Green only granted one because he had the misfortune of making eye contact at the wrong time (fully dressed).
He was a man of few words.
Eric Bledsoe was one of the last in the locker room, so we grabbed him too. He didn't offer much more than Gerald did.
"We're struggling on back-to-backs right now," he said of the young Suns being 1-5 on the second night of back-to-backs despite being one of the youngest teams in the league. "We got to move onto the next game...I think we just got to fight through. We're going through a little bit right now. At the end of the day we can take some positive. I think we were aggressive and we made plays and they just didn't fall for us."
At least he got a chance to eat his birthday cake, finally. Bledsoe turned 25 years old on Tuesday and there was a nice birthday cake in his locker after the game. PR Manager Julie Fie wrapped it up for him in a shoe box (she made sure it one with a new shoe smell instead of old shoe smell) so he could take it home.
There you have it, Suns fans.
They are not happy, and not entirely sure why they are so bad on the second night of back to backs.