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Late surge not enough to secure playoff spot

The Sports Xchange

The Suns missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in 1988. They failed to have at least one sellout at home for the first time since US Airways Center was built in 1992. Even The Gorilla took a punch in the face during an appearance in Tempe on Wednesday.

Oh yeah, and Steve Nash and Grant Hill are likely headed out the door as unrestricted free agent. Other than that, everything is just peachy.

Phoenix fought hard to stay in the playoff race. By the end of the season they had a working rotation, a good record at home and a real shot at sneaking into the final eight of the West.

"This was a rewarding year. This was a positive season," Nash said. "Obviously, I'm used to playing in the playoffs and that's important to me, but you know we took it about as far as we could this year. It's inevitable with a change and from some of our flaws we weren't going to have a good start.

"We struggled and the most important thing was the coaches stuck with us and never let us give up and found a way to make the pieces work to be greater than the sum of the parts and here we are with a chance to get in the playoffs, and here we are ending .500, which is pretty fitting. We hung in there. So there's reward to be had. It's not a championship, it's not the playoffs and so we're disappointed in that. But when you look at it we were greater than the sum of our parts and we had a lot of guys who sacrificed and fought and made this a pretty good year."

The Suns will have a lottery pick and money to spend even if Nash -- who is looking for a three-year deal -- returns. But what they need is direction and identity. And if Nash leaves, they will need a soul.

After a 12-19 start, the Suns were 21-14 after the All-Star break and came up one loss shy of a playoff spot. Players found comfort in their roles and the offense started churning out 100-point efforts. Three wins in three nights, including a big win in Los Angeles over the Clippers, was a big week for the team.

Losing Hill to a knee injury down the stretch hurt a team that needed a defensive stopper. He tried to play in the elimination game in Utah but only lasted three minutes.

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