This game against the Sacramento Kings is the last game on the Phoenix Suns schedule where they will be favored to win, likely. The rest of the season is loaded with playoff-seeded teams jockeying for position as the Suns try to slip in the back door.
Despite Russell Westbrook doing his best in a bouncer role, willing the Thunder to 11 games over .500 despite missing the league MVP (Kevin Durant) and one of its best defensive players (Serge Ibaka), the no-star Phoenix Suns are still alive and kicking. But they must make their move over the next week in their final stretch of home games while OKC hits the road.
Tonight's game against lowly Sacramento qualifies as a must-win.
After giving up 70 first-half points to the one of the league's worst offenses, they came back to beat the Sixers last night 117-116. And that's good news for the Suns. The Kings now have their win for the week in their back pocket, so they won't be quite as desperate to win on the road tonight.
Remember when the Kings were good? They beat the Suns during their high water start with Michael Malone as coach (up to a 9-5 record), but then DeMarcus Cousins got an infection and missed a lot of time and eventually the Malone was fired when they dropped to 11-13. Because clearly the Kings should have been much better than 11-13 without their star for half the games, right?
Ty Corbin proved that... just kidding. Corbin did for the Kings what he'd done for the Jazz for years - they went 7-21 and felt even worse than that about their season. At the All-Star break, the Kings fired Corbin too, and now have George Karl to right their ship.
Karl has led the Kings to a 7-11 record with a fast-paced offense ranking 9th in the league since the break, but at the expense of a league worst defense. They gave up 70 first half points to the Sixers last night for chrissake.
"It's been a circus," Cousins said recently of the season.
Check out more on the Kings at our SB Nation brother site Sactown Royalty
Your home town team has flipped the script since the All-Star break, sporting the league's 6th best defense in the last 17 games but weighed down by the league's 5th worst offense.
But other than shooting, Tucker and Morris have been revelations.
Mook has at least 2 assists and 4 rebounds in each of the last 7 games, but even better is putting up at least 4 assists and 10 rebounds in each of the last three. In the past three games, that's an average of 5 assists and 11.3 rebounds. He's also snared 5 steals in the last two games as well.
Tucker has scored 11+ points in 16 of the Suns last 20 games and 4+ rebounds in all 20, and though he's been struggling on three pointers through that time he did make 6 of 9 in the past two games. He's a +55 over the past 4 games, all Suns wins.
The Suns are on a roll, winning 5 of their last 6 games, including the last three against Western Conference teams ahead of them in the playoff race. They will need to keep up that pace the rest of the year to have a chance of overtaking the Thunder, who have won 7 of 8 and are showing no signs of letting down.
Hornacek said yesterday that Brandon Knight might play tonight, but that he would likely come off the bench as he works his way back into the lineup. The Suns really need scoring and playmaking in that second unit, allowing young Archie Goodwin to move back to shooting guard where he can be even more effective.
Is it possible that Goran Dragic took the buzzer beater jinx to Miami with him?
Take a look at this Buck's game winner from Khris Middleton last night over Dragic's Heat.
The Bucks had lost 14 of 17 games since trading Brandon Knight to the Suns, making last night's buzzer beater all the more impressive.
Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight or Markieff Morris filling the stat sheet for the Suns, but the best bet is DeMarcus Cousins (in a loss).
The Kings have beaten the Suns twice this year. Once in a high-scoring affair when they were relying on their defense (under Malone) and then in a really low scoring affair when they were riding their offense (under Corbin).
I think the Suns win this one easily, because the Kings are on a back-to-back and the Suns are tired of giving games away they have to win.
Left for dead by many, the Phoenix Suns are still in the playoff hunt after what might have been their best week of basketball this season. Can the Suns build on their momentum with a de facto elimination game against the Thunder looming this Sunday?
Sean Sullivan joins the show to discuss the streaking Suns, winners of four in a row, who have managed to stay in the conversation for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Suns are coming off their best back to back victories of the season against the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, thanks to standout performances from Eric Bledsoe and the Morris brothers, but Sean and I still aren't enamored with their chances of chasing down the torrid Thunder.
Now that Steve Nash has officially announced his retirement it seems appropriate to reminisce about an electric era of basketball engineered by the two time MVP.
Sean also breaks down the first week of the NCAA Tournament and the upcoming Sweet 16 matchups.