The Phoenix Suns won't get Steve Nash back in the lineup for another week.
They should be happy about having only one game to play in that span.

The Suns hope to avoid a third straight loss without the two-time reigning MVP before getting a much-needed break for All-Star weekend as the team visits the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday.

Nash has missed the last three games due to inflammation in his right shoulder. He first felt some shoulder pain when he got out of bed Feb. 1, but played through the injury for two games before sitting out the second half of a 109-102 win at Portland on Feb. 6.

The shoulder has not responded well to treatment, although an MRI showed no structural damage. The injury also will keep him out of Sunday's NBA All-Star game, though the team hopes he can return for next Tuesday's contest against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Steve's just not ready to play right now. He needs the recovery and rehab time," said coach Mike D'Antoni, who will coach the Western Conference All-Stars. "He hasn't recovered as quickly as we anticipated. Hopefully, he'll be able to resume play after the All-Star break."

The Suns are 4-10 without Nash, including 2-3 this season, since he joined the team three years ago. Phoenix (39-12) had lost consecutive games only once all season - a four-game skid from Nov. 3-9 - before losing at home to Atlanta and Chicago in its last two games.

In Sunday's 116-103 defeat to the Bulls, the Suns also were missing starting forward Boris Diaw due to back spasms. His absence left Phoenix particularly thin up front because forward Kurt Thomas has been sidelined since Jan. 15 with an elbow injury.

"We miss everybody. We've got like three or four people hurt," All-Star forward Shawn Marion said. "The whole team is bumped up; it's not just a one player thing. We definitely miss Steve, he's a huge part of this thing."

While it's uncertain if Diaw will return Wednesday, Thomas is expected to be back shortly after the All-Star break.

The injury to Nash has led D'Antoni to give extra minutes to point guard Marcus Banks, who had a season-high 20 points against Atlanta and a season-best seven assists versus Chicago in his first start of the season.

Leandro Barbosa often has played the point guard role since Nash went down, averaging 23.3 points and 5.3 assists in the last three games, but the Suns offense has faltered slightly.

Phoenix was 5-of-17 from 3-point range against Portland, one of its worst performances from beyond the arc this season. The team did not reach 20 assists for just the second time all season on Friday, and shot a season-worst 40.7 percent from the field on Sunday.

"We just have to regroup and hang in there," D'Antoni said. "We'll get guys back, we'll be all right."

Phoenix hopes it can halt the skid despite missing Nash, who had 27 points and 11 assists in a 113-102 win over Seattle on Jan. 9 in the only meeting this season.

The SuperSonics (19-32) are taking some momentum into the rematch after snapping a franchise-record road losing streak at 15 games with a 114-103 win at Sacramento on Sunday. Seattle saw its 22-point third-quarter lead dwindle to two midway through the fourth, but Ray Allen hit a key 3-pointer with 2:33 remaining to help the team pull away.

"The fourth quarter is when games are won," said Allen, who had 25 points. "We had the momentum the whole game. They went on a run and we fell back on our heels a little bit.

"Don't get too excited just yet. We have a long way to go."

One thing the Sonics could get a bit excited about was the play of Rashard Lewis in his second game after missing 22 with a torn tendon in his right hand. Lewis had 23 points and 10 rebounds as he got rid of a protective glove he wore on the hand Saturday, when he went 2-of-11 for 14 points in a loss to the Kings.

"I was able to get a better grip on the ball," Lewis said.

Sunday's victory was Seattle's second in three games after losing five in a row. The team is still at the bottom of the Northwest Division, 15 games behind first-place Utah.


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