DALLAS - Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said the goal for the remainder of the season is to improve with every game and every practice.
A loss like Sunday night's 110-95 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center will remind him just how much there is to improve with a team that sank back to the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Suns were again the team that had lost its first eight games on the second night of back-to-backs, the defense that ranks second-to-last in the NBA for defensive field-goal percentage and the team that has not won in Dallas on its last 10 visits.
Playing for the fourth time over four cities in five nights, the Suns did not offer up the same positives they had in their first three games under interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, with two victories and a stiff challenge to San Antonio on its home court.
"We made some changes, and since we've made those, we've been having good games," Suns power forward Luis Scola said. "This is the first bad game. For now, it's just a bad game."
The Suns led for the last time midway through the first quarter, falling behind by as much as 20 in the first half with a familiar face leading the way for Dallas.
Former Sun Shawn Marion, playing his 1,000th career game, celebrated with the activity of a fourth-year veteran rather than a 14-year one. Marion, who made up for Dirk Nowitzki's absence early in the season, wound up sharing the team scoring lead with Nowitzki (18 points) and added nine rebounds and five assists.
Dallas' zone defense kept the Suns to perimeter shooting while the Mavericks had little problem penetrating against the Suns for 50 points in the paint, a night after San Antonio scored 48 there.
"Guys weren't moving fast or weren't talking as much," Suns small forward P.J. Tucker said. "Early on, I could tell guys weren't into it and were tired. That's no excuse. We still have to talk enough on the weak side to not give up easy shots. We know what we are doing wrong and what we did well in the games we won. We just have to get back to that."
Dallas had been scoring well, making this its eighth consecutive game with at least 100 points, but the Suns had not given up more than 100 points in consecutive games over the past 26 games until this weekend.
"We were tired, but it's also about not boxing out, not rotating, multiple efforts," Suns center Marcin Gortat said. "We didn't protect the paint. We didn't shrink the court. We didn't have a low man who was ready to rotate. There were a lot of mistakes."
Hunter said he felt like the Suns "felt sorry for ourselves" after dragging from Sacramento on Wednesday night to Phoenix on Thursday night to San Antonio for Saturday night and then ending with Dallas.