P.J. Tucker had been away from the NBA for five years. He never has trudged through a six-month season. Just last month, Tucker wasn’t in the rotation for a game and didn’t play.

Of all the Suns, Tucker would be the guy to have plenty of good reasons to not finish the season strongly. But Tucker does not do anything meekly.

Tucker’s motor is what got him back to the NBA last summer and back in the starting lineup 12 games ago. Ever since, he has played his best basketball while playing a season of more than 70 games for the first time.

Tucker’s Wednesday night in Dallas will be remembered for being the first time he made three 3-pointers, including the clincher with 1:01 to go that brought his team off the bench like a “One Shining Moment” reel. The shot helped end a disastrous 10-game losing streak and was the fruit of Tucker’s daily labor to improve his corner 3-point shooting. It also capped a stretch in which Tucker’s hard-nosed defense came with well-rounded results.

“I kept telling myself, ‘It’s going to come, it’s going to come soon,’ ” Tucker said. “I’ve been doing it my whole pro career. I play a role and change how I play. After a while, it starts showing through. Once I learned how to fit with the team and being back in the league, I knew it’ll show even more so. I’m just getting comfortable. It’s just starting.”

Tucker has averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in this 12-game starting stretch while continuing to take the toughest defensive assignments, no matter if the star opponent is a point guard or wing scorer. In a previous starting stint from Dec. 31 to March 6, Tucker averaged 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds.

“I just stayed positive and worked toward the things I want to get better at and try to finish the season strong, so coming in next year we know how we need to play together to win,” Tucker said. “We’re switching this around and changing the culture, like Coach (interim head coach Lindsey Hunter) always says.”

Hunter often calls Tucker’s defensive work “phenomenal,” especially for how versatile Tucker’s 6-foot-6, 224-pound body is to guard different positions and how tenaciously he embraces the role.