Updated Dec 21, 2012 - 4:15 pm
Suns gaining trust, familiarity with one another
"(We're) now starting to see the evidence of hard work and what we put into it," PJ Tucker said. "It's really starting to pay off."
The Suns have followed up a season-worst seven-game losing streak with a season-best four-game winning streak.
"Guys are getting to know each other," head coach Alvin Gentry said. "When you throw nine new guys into a situation sometimes it takes a little time."
With more than a quarter of the season gone, the Suns are finally seeing some results, positive results.
"You have a team forming an identity," Jared Dudley said.
The identity started on the defensive end.
The Suns are doing a better job closing out on shooters and preventing dribble penetration. The result: A team that allowed 49 percent shooting during the recent slide is now defending at a 43 percent clip in the last four games.
Offensively, the Suns are enjoying their best stretch of sharing the basketball.
Gentry has long preached the art of the extra pass. His team is better when it makes three, four or even five passes per possession. Against Charlotte, the Suns assisted on a season-high 31 of their 47 made baskets.
"Guys are now giving up that pass where they know now they're going to get it in return," Dudley said. "And that's how it was ever since I've been here. You give up a good shot because you know you're going to get so many good shots throughout a game, and that wasn't happening early on."
The recent success has translated into the second-longest active win streak in the NBA. A fifth straight win Saturday in Portland would surpass the team's longest win streak from all of last season.
"Every time we walk on the court, we feel like we got a chance to win," Tucker said. "We've been saying that all year and now we're starting to really show it."
Suns players, coaches and support staff gathered for an off day of bowling on Thursday.
"It was not pretty," Gentry said. "(PBA Hall of Famer) Pete Weber would not have been proud."
According to Tucker, rookie Diante Garrett was the worst.
"He got three zeros, which I have never seen before in my life," Tucker said. "My daughter can knock down a pin. We were going to put the bumpers up for him."
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