Over and over again, the Phoenix Suns rise from the ashes to retake playoff position from more experienced teams as the season winds down. Today, the Suns are back into the 8th spot earlier than most had predicted.

Thanks to a tiebreaker that is momentarily in effect, the Phoenix Suns are back in the 8th spot in the playoff chase, just ahead of Dallas thanks to having a better Western Conference record.

Both teams are 42-29, but the Suns are better against the West so far so they are in the 8th spot for now. Dallas faces a brutal schedule for the next week, while the Suns have to keep winning on the road before closing out against their own brutality of schedule. Dallas faces the Thunder, Golden State and play two against the Clippers in their next five games. Sound familiar? It's that stretch that knocked the Suns out of position earlier.

A guest writer, fantasy basketball money leagues, posted a very good article today analyzing whether the Suns can make it. Spoiler alert: there's a reason I promoted the fanpost to the top of the site.

The Borg?

When the Suns do make the playoffs, guess who they are most likely to match up against? The San Antonio Spurs, no less.

The Spurs keep trucking along, now fighting to win their 15th straight game despite regularly resting their stars. Guess who was the last team the Spurs lost to?

You're right, it was the Suns. By a whopping 21 points. The Spurs were resting Tony Parker in that game, and were at the end of a 9-game road trip. Otherwise, the Spurs beat the Suns the two times they'd met earlier in the season.

A first round matchup against the Spurs would be poetic. While the Spurs dominated the Suns in the mid-2000s, knocking the Suns from the playoffs in 2005, 2007 and 2008, the Suns swept the Spurs in 2010. That was the last time the Suns made the playoffs while the Spurs have made it each year and reached the Finals in 2013.

Whither the Blazers?

A crazy thought is that the Suns might not have to make the playoffs ahead of either Memphis or Dallas. They just might be the ones to knock Portland from the playoffs. The Suns are only three games behind Portland now, who are reeling in the second half and playing even worse without LcMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers' slide began before Aldridge was sidelined, though, so there's no guarantee they will win a bunch of games once he comes back.

Risen again

Let's savor this for a moment, Suns fans.

Three times now, the Phoenix Suns have pushed back against their doubters this season to take a playoff position in the tough Western Conference.

First, the Suns killed it in December, winning 10 of 13 games and getting as high as 7th with a 19-11 record after pasting the Los Angeles Clippers in LA on December 30.  The Suns were never supposed to be good enough to win anything but the lottery.

Second, when Eric Bledsoe went down to long-term injury the pundits again predicted the Suns' demise. They said the mirage would fade, and the Suns would go back to resembling the Sixers. But no, the Suns treaded water without their second best player and kept their playoff position for two full months behind the Dragon.

A third time the Suns were left for dead happened just two weeks ago when the Suns lost a series of games in advance of Eric Bledsoe's return that dropped them to the 9th spot with a looming road-heavy schedule to close out the year. No way the Suns make it, they said. A loss to Cleveland at home seemed to staple the Suns "RIP" sign to their chests.

Yet, just two weeks later the Suns have won 6 of 7 games since Eric Bledsoe returned to the starting lineup, and now are right back into the playoff picture with small window to widen their hold on the position before the gauntlet of the final 2 weeks faces them.

Hold tight

Going into April with a hold on playoff position is vital, but this team has already proven they can beat anyone on any night and that they do not shy from pressure. Since when has such an inexperienced team held up so well under pressure?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your Phoenix Suns.

#ignited

Coach Hornacek approves of what his team is doing right now. Or maybe that is a play call... Either way here is the Center of the Sun with the weekly recap, draft update, stats, quotes, and a preview of the week ahead.

How do you define the Phoenix Suns (42-29) recent four game winning streak? Was it a simple case of "doing what they were supposed to do?" Or a turning point in the season...? Different eyes are going to see different things. One thing is for certain: This past week the Suns pulled their heads fully above water and are neck-and-neck in this playoff race.

Game Recaps

@ Brooklyn Nets - L (95-108) Full Recap

vs. Orlando Magic - W (109-93) Full Recap

vs. Detroit Pistons - W (98-92) Full Recap

@ Minnesota Timberwolves - W (127-120) Full Recap

@ Atlanta Hawks - W (102-95) Full Recap

Either way, this was an important week for the Suns and so is next week. More on that below. The Suns took care of business and that is what matters the most right now. They needed these wins.

The Memphis Grizzlies have gone 27-9 as of late and look like a team that could run all the way up to the No. 4 Seed if they keep this up. They also have a five game road trip starting this week that could benefit the Suns. The Dallas Mavericks this season have only lost more than two games in a row once. A three game losing streak to start this month off. They are a model of pretty consistent basketball for a team that is fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot out west. They get to sit back at home for four straight, three of which against playoff teams, all in conference.

So for the Suns beating bad teams now is important for the final stretch where they only have two under .500 opponent on the schedule (Sacramento & New Orleans) and six Western Conference Playoff contenders to deal with after this current week.

Goran Dragic's comment after the Detroit win (see below) was the right approach for every opponent the Suns play over the next three weeks. They are all good. They are all talented. And the Suns have to remember that nightly.

Part of that is going to be the return of Eric Bledsoe to where he was as one of the NBA's Most Improved Players and another part of it is the play of the bench.

This past week Markieff Morris and Gerald Green played very well. Morris (17.6 PPG 64% shooting) and Green (14.0 PPG 49% shooting) found their rhythm and chemistry providing a spark off the bench. Sam for Ish Smith, Alex Len, and the rest of the reserves.

When that unit contributes the way they have as of late this is a dynamic offense with waves of scorers to throw at opponents. When they are not... Well, that is a very different story.

Overall the team controls their own destiny and cannot worry about what Memphis does on their road trip or how Dallas serves up home cooking during their stand. All that matters is how the Phoenix Suns do in their games and everything else will take care of itself. Well, a little help from the Basketball God's wouldn't hurt...

Key Stat

> 45%

In all four wins this week the Suns are holding their opponents to under 45% shooting from the field. They are playing a more desperate and urgent brand of basketball as of late allowing them to compete on both sides of the court. This is not going to become a great defensive team overnight, but they have to be competitive down the stretch here to even consider catching Dallas, Memphis, or Golden State in the standings.

Quote of the Week

They are a good team. They have won only 25 games, but still if you look at their roster they have good players. I think we went into the game especially remembering that game in Detroit when we were down 25 points and tried to come back. Tonight, I think we played well for some parts of the time, but we still had a lot of problems especially getting big guys out of the paint and getting rebounds. -- Goran Dragic on the Pistons

2014 NBA Draft Update

Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, with their own pick landing in the lottery. Sort of what most thought in the pre-season, but not quite the pace from those projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:

Minnesota Timberwolves (34-35) -- No. 12 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) Aaron Harrison, Freshman Guard Kentucky

Phoenix Suns (42-29) -- No. 23 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Freshman Wing Arizona

Washington Wizards (36-34) -- No. 19 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Clint Capela, Swiss Forward 1994 Born

Indiana Pacers (51-20) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Jabari Bird, Freshman Wing California

Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.

Suns History Lesson

This week in Suns History: March 31st, 1992 -- Cotton Fitzsimmons won his 800th game becoming only the 6th Coach in NBA History to reach that amount of wins.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, March 26th @ Washington Wizards (36-34)

Friday, March 28th vs. New York Knicks (29-41)

Sunday, March 30th @ Los Angeles Lakers (23-46)

The Suns can easily pick up where they left off rattling off wins against the middle to bottom of the league. A switch flipped for them after the loss to Brooklyn and they are winning the games playoff teams have to win to be playoff teams. On the season they are a combined 2-3 against these three with all three wins coming against the "rival" Lakers. A double-dip along the yellow brick road to the playoffs of a season sweep of the Lakers and a pace keeping win would be a sweet feat.

All three games have an emotional and rational significance to the Suns with the Lakers being the Lakers, Marcin Gortat on the Wizards, and that buzzer-beater by J.R. Smith a year ago... We all remember.

With four straight wins, including tonight’s 107-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, the Phoenix Suns have officially ended their streak of three straight losing seasons. 42 wins is a big number for a...

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Are you a Frye Guy or a Mo' Bro?

Why not both?!

Channing Frye and Markieff Morris both came to play tonight, combining for 35 points on 13-21 shooting while playing engaged defense on Paul Millsap.  Millsap still managed 19 points, but did it on 6-14 shooting.  Frye chipped in 7 boards while Markieff managed 3 in the 102-95 Suns' victory.

Not to be out done, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragi? scored 20 and 19 of their own points in a solid Suns' victory.  Aside from a cold stretch in the second quarter, Phoenix looked focused and composed throughout the game, never rattling in the face of the Atlanta Hawks' mulitple attempts to steal this game.  This was the smoothest Phoenix's offense has looked since Bledsoe returned from knee surgery and is hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

This was a solid effort by Phoenix and hopefully a bit of a breather for Suns fans after their recent struggles to notch wins.  Not that you'd know they'd been struggling as they've now won 4 in a row and 5 of their last 6!  You know who never struggles (except on fast breaks)?  P.J. Tucker.  That dude just plays his game night in and night out.  Tonight it was 8 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals for the heart of the Phoenix Suns, who like Tucker, never quit in this game.  His defensive intensity was contagious as the Suns held the normally hot-shooting Hawks to 41.7% shooting.

For the Hawks, DeMarre Carrol matched Millsap's 19 points, while Jeff Teague and Louis Williams had 17 each.  And despite some early domination on the glass, Phoenix managed to out rebound the Hawks' aggressive front line, 39-32.

First Half

Hot shooting and good defense got the Suns off to an 15-7 advantage as Atlanta missed their first 6 shots while the Suns hit their first four 3-pointers.  It did not last long as Paul Millsap and Elton Brand went to work to tie the game with 2 minutes left in the first quarter.  Channing Frye and Lou Williams then exchanged 3 pointers before both teams forgot how to play basket ball for the next 90 seconds.  Gerald Green was then fouled on a drive and hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 25-23 to end the quarter.

The second quarter started with Atlanta scoring on their first 2 possessions to take a 2-point lead.  The Hawks stretched their lead to 7 behind some strong play from Louis Williams before Marcus Morris and Channing Frye hit back-to-back threes to close the gap to 1.  An Eric Bledsoe free throw completed the 7-0 run to tie the ball game with 5 minutes left in the period.  Atlanta bested the Suns on the boards 20-18 (5-3 on the offensive end) which lead to multiple second chances and a 3-point halftime lead despite being out-shot by Phoenix 41.2% to 40.5%.

Second Half

After getting abused on the boards early, Phoenix remembered their fundamentals and fought back to take the lead a few minutes into the third quarter.  Goran Dragi? and Eric Bledsoe were aggressive going to the hoop, drawing fouls when they weren't getting lay-ins.  The penetration of DragonBlade was so effective that Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer drew a technical after an uncontested Bledsoe lay-up.  His T was for naught as the Bledsoe-Dragi? lay-up line continued unabated as the Suns outscored Atlanta 35-23 in the third with 23 of those points coming from DragonBlade.

Phoenix looked to keep the momentum going in the 4th, but a cold spell allowed Atlanta to climb back within 4 early in the period.  Gerald Green, who went to the bench early with foul trouble, made his presence felt to keep the Suns from succumbing to the feisty Hawks scoring 9 points in the 4th quarter.  After extending the lead to 10, Phoenix started playing not to lose and working the shot clock with just over 4 minutes left in the game.  The lack of aggression allowed Atlanta to make it way more of a game than it needed to be.  Nevertheless, solid defensive play and steady shooting allowed Phoenix to hold on for the win.

Time: 4:30 pm MST TV: FSAZ The Minnesota-Atlanta back-to-back is one of the hardest trips in the NBA. But after yesterday’s comeback win over the Timberwolves, the Suns could be on the Siberia-London...

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