Suns seek better effort against Nuggets

( - The Phoenix Suns are in a major rut, one that might cost them a playoff berth, but they'll try to fight out of it Wednesday night when they visit the Pepsi Center to meet the Denver Nuggets.

Phoenix has lost five straight and eight of its last nine. The Suns have been lapped by the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Phoenix trails OKC by three games and is actually 10th in the west, a half-game behind the New Orleans Pelicans.

The slide reached five games on Monday with a 110-105 home loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Suns were torched by a former friend, guard Isaiah Thomas, who the team traded to the Celtics on deadline day Thursday. Thomas finished with 21 points and seven assists against his former team.

Eric Bledsoe posted 21 points, nine assists and seven boards, and Alex Len supplied 10 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for Phoenix. Brandon Knight, who made his home debut after being acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, netted 20 points, and P.J. Tucker had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns.

The Celtics used a big second quarter to build a sizable lead, but Phoenix cut it to one with 1:47 remaining. Thomas took over.

He nailed his 3 over Knight from the right wing and was fouled. Thomas made the free throw, then sliced down the middle of the lane a possession later, leapt off two feet, and switched the ball from his left to right hand in midair before completing the layup on the right side of the basket. It gave Boston a 107-100 advantage with 40.9 seconds remaining.

"Well when you get down 20, you're fighting an uphill battle the whole game. Then we hit a couple right there at the end and got right there, but then had a couple of turnovers. It's hard to battle back," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said.

The Nuggets have lost three in a row and own just two victories in their last 18.

On Monday, Denver dropped its seventh straight at home in a 110-82 drubbing at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets.

Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 22 points while newly-acquired Will Barton added 15 points in the setback. Darrell Arthur and Gary Harris scored 10 apiece, while Ty Lawson handed out 10 assists and Jusuf Nurkic grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Nets scored the final nine points of the half to take a 54-45 lead into the break, and held a 63-47 lead just two minutes into the second half after Deron Williams hit a jumper.

Brooklyn eventually took an 85-69 lead into the fourth quarter, and put the contest out of reach with a 12-2 run that was finished off when Brook Lopez hit a jumper for a 101-75 lead with 5 1/2 minutes to play.

"It's like we aren't all on the same page," said Lawson. "It's tough and we have to have a good practice, get the coverages down and get the plays down and play better."

The two teams split two meetings this season with the home team prevailing. The Nuggets are 6-2 in their last eight as the host in this series.