The Suns look to extend their six game winning streak in Hollywood.

There used to be a time when a Phoenix Suns-Los Angeles Lakers matchup invoked a variety of emotions in fans of both teams: hatred, fear, excitement, disgust and more. That's not entirely the case this season.

The 2013-14 Lakers are beaten, battered and bloodied--no seriously, I swear I saw blood everywhere in a stretch a couple weeks ago when LA surrendered over 408 points in three games. That's 136 points per game. So. Much. Blood. For the season, the Lakers are giving up nearly 109 points per game--more than any other team not starting two dudes named Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

In 2012-13, the 25-win Suns split the season series against LA. Today, Phoenix (44-29) looks to sweep this year's series against the Lakers (24-48) in a game that they should absolutely win. Frankly, I'm impressed the Lakers have managed to muster 24 wins with all the injuries they've dealt with and the quality of their roster. To put that into perspective, that's just one win less than Phoenix had all last year, and the Lakers still have ten games remaining.

The Lakers are coming off a 143-107 loss to the Timberwolves in which LA's defense gave up 67% shooting to Minnesota. Sixty. Seven. Percent. In an NBA game.

Before that, the Lakers lost a game to the Eastern Conference powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks, but they actually came out quite pleased with the result as both teams tried to the best of their abilities to lose--players in the game were actually seen actively trying to score on their own hoops, and sources say each play the Bucks drew up was called "A Wiggins" while LA's playbook consisted only of "The Jabari."

Before the Bucks loss, the Lakers actually defeated the New York Knicks at home, by a score of LOL KNICKS. The Suns are also coming off a convincing victory at home against New York.

I don't often use the term "must-win" but with a tough stretch coming up, the Suns absolutely must win this game.

Who: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers

What: Round 4 of 4 between two Pacific Division teams

When: 6:30pm PST/9pm EST (6:30pm AZ time)

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Why: Suns Vs. Lakers! Rivalry! Memories of Steve Nash Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks!

Recap of Rounds 1-3

Round 1: Suns (114-108)
Round 2: Suns (117-90)
Round 3: Suns (121-114)

Key Matchups

Kendall Marshall vs. Eric Bledsoe: Remember when the Suns were at their own tanking peak late last season and opted to "rest" Goran Dragic, leaving Kendall Marshall as Phoenix's starter at the point? Fun times. Marshall has definitely exceeded expecations in LA after being traded away by the Suns and released by the Wizards. He's averaging 8.0 points and 8.9 assists (really impressive) in 29 minutes per game, while shooting 39.8% from the field and 41.5% from three (on 3.3 attempts a game, no less). Marshall's play may be a result of Mike D'Antoni being "the point guard whisperer" and it hasn't really resulted in wins, but good for Kendall.

Jodie Meeks vs. Goran Dragic: Meeks' stats have also been the beneficiaries of D'Antoni's system and the 6th-year guard is averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds and shooting percentages. He also dropped 42 points in a shocking win against the Thunder a few weeks ago, so the Suns must not underestimate the "Meek Mamba's" ability to get hot at any given moment.

Lakers bench vs. Suns bench: LA's bench boasts a lot of firepower--their second unit exploded for a ridiculous 82 points against the Knicks last week. Phoenix's bench will have to do its best to win the battle of second units.

Chris Kaman vs. Lakers' bench: Will Kaman be able to resist his desire to nap on the Lakers bench today? This could prove key to LA's success today:

Chris-kaman-bench_medium

Nick Young vs. premature celebrations: Nick Young is another guy on the Lakers' bench who has the ability to light up the scoreboard at any given moment. He is also an absolute gem and we can only hope we see some more of this from Swaggy P today:

Swaggyp-2_medium

Jordan Hill's hair vs. itself: Jordan Hill's hair is in a constant battle with itself. Who will came out on top today? (SERIOUSLY WHAT IS THIS)

Jordan-hill-hair_medium

Tipoff's at 6:30pm. Please win this game, Suns.

Recapping the Western Conference action in the Suns chase for the playoffs

So I mentioned this on Twitter last night but it bears repeating -  at what point in your grieving process for a bad sports loss do you think -  hey you know what seems like a reasonable response to this?  Rioting.  Yeah rioting sounds good. I know everyone makes really stupid decisions in college (come on, it's a rite of passage) but I think if you can stay off of the news surrounding by a police force in riot gear then you've won.

But I digress.  Very little action in the Western Conference playoff race last night but I want to give you guys a place to not riot so here goes.

Saturday March 29th Key Western Conference Results:

Dallas Mavericks 103 Sacramento Kings 100 (Recap) - I'd say I was surprised but I don't think you would believe me.  Dallas led the Kings by as many as 17 points in the first half (which in all honesty resulted in me paying zero attention to the game) but Sacramento stormed back in the 4th quarter.  In fact, with 4:07 to go in the 4th Sacramento held a 5 point lead.  Dallas then rolled off a 10-0 run to take the lead and though the Kings hit a few late shots to keep it close - even having a Travis Outlaw three point attempt to tie it up - the Mavs won the game they needed to win.  If you think you just saw that movie with Memphis and Utah - you did.  Dirk led the way for Dallas with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in just 30 minutes.  Rudy Gay put up 30 for Sacramento and managed to do it on 19 shots.  Unfortunately this won't be the last time the Kings factor into the Suns race for the playoffs as they have games with Golden State, Portland, and Dallas again before closing with the Suns.

Current Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.San Antonio
57 16 .781 - 10-0 WON 17
2. Oklahoma City
53 19 .736 3.5
7-3 WON 1
3. LA Clippers
52 22 .703 5.5 8-2 WON 2
4. Houston 49 23 .681 7.5 6-4 LOST 1
5. Portland
47 27 .635 10.5 5-5 WON 2
6. Golden State
45 27 .625 11.5 7-3 WON 1
7. SUNS
44 29 .603 13 8-2 WON 6
8. Memphis
43 29 .597 13.5
7-3 LOST 1
- Dallas
44 30 .595 13.5 6-4 WON 1

Sunday March 30th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Knicks @ Warriors - You'd like to think the Knicks will acquit themselves a little bit better than they did in Phoenix on Friday night but you'd also like to think you'll win the lottery someday.  Andrew Bogut will be out a week for the Warriors who will now use his absence to scapegoat any and all losses.

Suns @ Lakers - With 9 games left in the season the Suns have a very small number of "should win" opponents remaining.  This is one of them.  The Lakers don't have Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Elgin Baylor, or Jerry West.  They have Ryan Kelly, smiling Wes Johnson, and Kendall Marshall (Pau Gasol is a maybe but even if he plays, no excuses).  If you fashion yourself a playoff team you need to go into Staples Center and sweep the season series.

Grizzlies @ Trail Blazers -  More no lose scenario games! I keep considering Memphis a lock to make the playoffs but if they lose this no-lose scenario game you really never know.  The room for error is basically non-existent for everyone.  Memphis hasn't lost consecutive games since the beginning of February and I would imagine they'd like to not start tonight.


Time: 6:30 pm MST TV: FSAZ The Phoenix Suns head to the Staples Center tonight, enjoying the final bit of calm before the storm that is their April close to the season. The Suns have one more...

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Since the return of Bledsoe to the starting line-up, the Suns have gone 7-1 over the last eight games, and have taken over the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoff seedings. There's no doubt....the Slash Brothers are back!

The NBA is all about which player and team can rule the court in the most epic fashion and Bright Side of the Sun has teamed up with Crown Royal to rank the best of the best Phoenix Suns players each and every week. Which player(s) ruled the court this week? #ReignOn


The Players of the Week

Eric Bledsoe

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 20.0 FG%: 44% 3FG%: 61% Assists: 5.5 Rebounds: 6.0 Steals: 1.75

It's hard to quantify the effect that Eric Bledsoe has on this Suns team with words, so let's look at some of the numbers instead. The Suns were 12-4 with both Bledsoe and Dragic in the starting line-up at the beginning of the season before he went down with an injury. With Bledsoe out, the Suns went 17-16. He also missed six games with a shin injury in late November...the suns went 3-3 over that span as well.

Now that he's back, they are on a six game winning streak going 7-2 overall. The grand tally thus far is 24-10 with Bledsoe vs. 20-19 without him...That's not even counting the handful of games that Dragic missed, which contributed to a few of those losses with Bledsoe in the line-up.

Bledsoe's aggressive style of play on both sides of the court is making a big difference for the Suns. Not only has he helped ressurect the defense, he is attacking the basket and getting to the line frequently, where he shoots a very efficient 80%. In fact, 27% of his total points come from the free-throw line. His 5.3 attempts per game is the 18th best among all players in the league, but only second on the Suns. Guess who's first?

Goran Dragic

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 23.5 FG%: 59% 3FG%: 50% Assists: 5.5 Rebounds: 3.3 Steals: 1.5

Goran Dragic has become not only the face of the franchise, but also a top-five MVP candidate this season. Dragic has had a magical season in every way possible.

Dragic is ranked 18th in scoring this season, averaging 20.6 points per game. His passion for the game and willingness to sacrifice his body in order to apply pressure on the opposing defense and attack the rim have been consistent all season long. The Dragon only knows one way to play the game...by giving everything he's got.

Not only is Dragic an incredibly passionate player who lights up the scoreboard on a nightly basis. He is one of the most efficient as well. Dragic is 10th in the league in adjusted field-goal percentage, which also factors in the amount of points per attempt, where he averages .574. If Dragic isn't relentlessly attacking the rim, he's taking efficient three-point shots that he's shooting at an incredibly high percentage. This combination makes him one of the most dangerous scorers in the entire league...and this week was no different.


The Slash Brothers

Combined Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 43.5 FG%: 49% 3FG%: 56% Assists: 11.0 Rebounds: 9.3 Steals: 3.25

Forget about the "Splash Brothers"...There's a new "Two-Bleded Dragon" in town...and they have become the premier back-court in the league. Although Bledsoe and Dragic can both light it up from beyond the arc, just like the Splash Brothers of Golden State, they have an added dimension to their game that sets them apart.

Remember that stat above that lists Bledsoe at 18th in the league with 5.3 free-throw attempts per game? Well Dragic is tied for 15th in the league with 5.6. They are one of five tandems to crack the top 20 in this category, the others being Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (1st and 12th), Dwight Howard and James Harden (2nd and 4th), Demarcus cousins and Isaiah Thomas (3rd and 13th), and Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge (18th and 20th.

As you can see, the Slash Brothers are the only back-court duo on the list. Where do the Splash Brothers fall in this metric? Stephen Curry is 38th, and Klay Thompson is 113th.

You may expect the Slash Brothers to have an advantage when attacking the rim...after all, that's where the name comes from. But what about the "Splash" aspect of their games? Surely the Golden State Warrior duo has a considerable advantage in this category...right?

Well kind of...Stephen Curry shoots a very high .417 from beyond the arc, ranking 13th overall, and Klay Thompson is right behind him shooting .410, ranking 18th. However, Goran Dragic shoots a staggering .428 from three...ranking in the top 10 at #9 overall...higher than both of them. Eric Bledsoe is not in their league though. He shoots only .353 from three on the season, ranking 152 overall. You have to wonder if that number would improve with Bledose playing more games...I think it would.

But still, with one of the Slash Brothers leading both of the Splash Brothers in their own category, and the Slash Brothers proving their dominance when it comes to attacking the rim...I know who I'd pick to have leading my team.

---

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Remember, our readers will also have a chance to receive some Crown Royal swag to help you Reign On, too, on the street, basketball court or just in your living room. More to come soon.

Poll
Will the Slash Brothers be able to stay hot and lead the Phoenix Suns to the playoffs this season?

  508 votes | Results

Recapping the Western Conference action in the Suns chase for the playoffs

This is just really fun, huh?  The Suns are winning games, our Western Conference competition is giving up basically no ground, and Bright Side of the Sun is basically throwing back to 2010.  If you are not enjoying yourself right now then there's absolutely nothing I can do for you.

I'm hungover so that's all your going to get for an intro.  If you want more then write it yourself.

Friday March 28th Key Western Conference Results:

Phoenix Suns 112 New York Knicks 88 (Recap) - At the 4 minute mark of the 1st quarter the Knicks led the Suns 22-19 and it looked like defense was going to be optional.  After that point it was pretty much all Suns.  No doubt spurred on by my presence at the game, the Suns led the game by 32 at one point and in a rare (and delightful) change of pace, cruised to victory.  Goran Dragic scored 18 points in the 3rd quarter and then got all lazy and finished with a mere 32 points on 11/17 shooting.  Eric Bledsoe had an Eric Bledsoey box score with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists - but he shot poorly so we should trade him back to the Clippers for Jared Dudley and a 2nd round pick.  But if you really want to have some LOLKnicks time feel free to point to the fact that Miles Plumlee played only 23 minutes and managed to post his first double-double since January 27th.  I haven't read the comments from the celebration thread yet but I'm fairly sure nobody pointed out that the universally loved Channing Frye missed all 4 of his shot attempts.

Portland Trail Blazers 91 Chicago Bulls 74 (Recap) -How do you win a game where your leading scorer puts up 16 points and your All-Star forward scores 5?  You play the Bulls offense and watch them go for 74 points total.  Seth Pollack's adopted shaggy haired son scored 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting and added 9 rebounds.  That was enough to overcome a Bulls team which shot a sterling 3 of 17 from three.  After looking like crap for a while the Blazers seem to have righted the ship with a couple wins over Eastern Conference playoff teams.  We'll see for sure on Sunday when Portland returns home to face Memphis.  In case you missed this stat in the comments of an earlier Playoff Report the Blazers have lost 12 straight games to the Top 9 teams in the West.

Golden State Warriors 100 Memphis Grizzlies 93 (Recap) -  Stephen Curry is really good but you knew that already.  The Full Squad State Full Squadiors played with David Lee (hamstring) and had Andrew Bogut for just 4 minutes until the oft-injured Aussie left with a bruised pelvis (which sounds awful).  Despite missing their starting bigs and playing the big man basketball version of Dick Dastardly and Muttley - the Warriors won anyway.  Curry scored 33 points on 13/22 shooting and got help from Marresse Speights (15 on 7/9) and Klay Thompson (sort of - he scored 14 points but did it on 16 shots) in the win.  The Grizzlies led the game by 7 with just 4 minutes remaining but in the exact opposite way which they stormed back to beat the Jazz - the cuddly teddy bears missed their last 7 shots and never scored again.

Current Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.San Antonio
56 16 .778 - 10-0 WON 16
2. Oklahoma City
53 19 .736 3
7-3 WON 1
3. LA Clippers
51 22 .699 5.5 8-2 WON 1
4. Houston 49 22 .690 6.5 7-3 WON 5
5. Portland
47 27 .635 10 5-5 WON 2
6. Golden State
45 27 .625 11 7-3 WON 1
7. SUNS
44 29 .603 12.5 8-2 WON 6
8. Memphis
43 29 .597 13
7-3 LOST 1
- Dallas
43 30 .597 13.5 6-4 LOST 1

Saturday March 29th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Kings @ Mavericks - This is the only relevant game on the docket tonight and it's one where I'd be pretty surprised if the Kings managed to pull an upset.  Sacramento hasn't won a game against a member of the Western Conference Top 9 since January 7th - a streak which covers 10 attempts.  So I guess they're due?  At least the ten thousand game homestand the Mavericks are on ends in 2 more games.


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