It may feel like the Suns are just playing out the string after tough losses in Texas over the weekend, but the Suns still have a chance to make the dance if they can beat the Grizzlies.

Hurtling toward the end of an unexpectedly thrilling season, the Phoenix Suns appear to have stumbled in the stretch run just enough to finish 9th in a race with only 8 winners.

Goran Dragic re-twisted his ankle just before the toughest games of the year, and the Suns just didn't have the horses to beat San Antonio or Dallas on the road over the weekend.

For the Suns to make the playoffs, they need the Mac truck called the Memphis Grizzlies to match their stumble. The Suns can cause a bit of a bobble tonight, but they need the Grizzlies to complete the fall on their own on Wednesday night against the Mavericks team with little to nothing to play for.

If the Suns beat the Grizzlies tonight, the 49-win Mavericks will finish no lower than 7th in the West. There is a small chance the Golden State Warriors (also with 49 wins) will give the Mavs a chance at 6th with a win over Memphis, but the Warriors just need one more win over either Denver or Minnesota to secure 6th regardless what Dallas does.

But at least we're saying there's a chance.

The Opponent - The Grizzlies

The Grizzlies did what they needed to do to control their own destiny in the playoff race. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and pulled off an upset of the Miami Heat in the past week.

The Grizzlies current starting lineup of Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tayshawn Prince, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is 25-8 together - even better than the Suns' best lineup - and have looked like a playoff team for a while now. The Grizzlies' problem was health - they were pretty bad (except against the Suns) when Marc Gasol missed a few weeks with a knee injury.

Grizzlies are the league's slowest team, ranking 30th in pace as they walk the ball up the court and pound it inside to the post for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to eat up the opponent. Unfortunately, this style is kryptonite to the Suns and we might see tonight that the Suns just don't have an answer. The Grizz might score 60-70 points in the paint, and the Suns only chance might be to get on fire from the three-point line.

The Suns

The Suns have won 11 of their last 14 starts with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe sharing the backcourt, and Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee and P.J. Tucker along the front line. Overall, the Suns are 23-10 with this lineup despite losing three of those games because Dragic was either severely hobbled or left the game due to injury.

This has been such a tough year physically for Goran Dragic even while he's been playing at an All-Star level. No guard in the last 20 years has matched Goran's 20+ points per game on 50+% FG shooting and 40+% three-point shooting. Dragic has suffered a half-dozen ankle injuries, the latest of which may just have put the nail in the coffin of the Suns playoff hopes.

Dragic missed Friday night's loss and hobbled through Saturday's loss, producing only 13 points in 40 minutes on Saturday against a porous Dallas D.

Next to him, young guard Eric Bledsoe has taken over and tried to will the Suns to a win with his elite athleticism and effort but ultimately hurt the team with his inexperience. In the two games, Bledsoe averaged 29.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 5 steals and a whopping 7 turnovers.

On Friday, he had a drive to the hoop that could have pulled the Suns within 2 in the final minute but he chose to pass out to an open Channing Frye for a three-pointer.

On Saturday, he had a drive to the hoop that could have tied the game with 10 seconds left and this time he took the shot but his layup was blocked on a great defensive play by Brandan Wright, who rotated on help defense.

Add in costly turnovers - 14 over the two games - and Bledsoe just didn't have the experience it takes to close out a tough game against playoff-caliber competition. But this year was always supposed to be a learning experience, since Bledsoe had never been "the man" in late game situations before. Expect his decision-making to improve over the years.

The Dallas game on Saturday night was a microcosm of Bledsoe's great potential and costly inexperience. With his team down eight points in the final two minutes, Bledsoe led a 7-0 run with 5 points, 1 steal and another forced turnover to give the Suns several chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute.

The sequence:

  • Led a 7-0 charge to pull the Suns within 1 point with less than a minute left (99-98)
  • But missed the second free throw that could have tied the game, leaving the Suns 1 point behind
  • Got a steal on the next play but immediately passed to Gerald Green for a quick shot to take the lead instead of holding for a better one (Green missed)
  • Drove for a game-tying layup with 10 seconds left, but didn't see the help defender (Wright) who blocked the layup

All plays borne of aggression and effort, but ultimately showed his inexperience. If Green had hit that runner to take the lead, Bledsoe would be hailed a hero. There would have been 25 seconds on the clock, leaving the Suns with a final-shot opportunity if Dallas had scored on the ensuing possession.

But Green missed, and then Bledsoe got blocked a few seconds later and the Suns came up short. Unfortunately, Goran Dragic was a shadow of himself or he could have helped close out that game.

Now, the Suns have to hope for help to make the playoffs, and they have to figure out how to beat a team they cannot seem to beat - the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Stats

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The Lineups

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You can bet Dragic will play in this game, no matter what shape his ankle is in. He's too much of a competitor.

Key Match-Up

There's no other place to watch than the painted area on both ends of the court. The Grizzlies will try to pound it inside with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph until the Suns yell uncle. The Suns are 0-3 against the Grizzlies, even though the Grizz haven't played their full lineup in any of those games. It's the style that kills the Suns. If not Randolph and Gasol, it's Davis and Koufos killing them.

The Suns will have to find their inner sand bucket and make the scoring somewhat even down low if they are to have a chance to finish the home schedule with a win.

The Prediction

The Suns will be playing for pride and a flicker of playoff hope, but the Grizzlies are the worst kind of team to face right now.

Maybe they should call Alvin or Lindsey for a game plan. Somehow, the Suns won the season series against an even stronger Memphis team a year ago despite suffering their own worst season in 40 years.

I'd love to say the Suns will win this one, but I don't have a good feeling about it.

Yet after watching the Spurs clinch the #1 spot on Friday, and watching Dallas clinch a playoff berth on Saturday, the last thing the Suns want is to allow the Grizzlies to become the third consecutive team to clinch their playoff position by beating the Suns.

Fight to end, Suns!

Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how it felt to be a Laker fan for a night. It's all fair game here.

I know this may feel like sacrilege, but the Phoenix Suns really, really, really need the Los Angeles Lakers to finish their home schedule with a win to give their fans a warm fuzzy for the summer... and help the Suns get closer to the playoffs despite losing two straight games.

The sitch

See, the Lakers play this little team called the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have the same number of wins as the Suns (47), but three games remaining vs. the Suns' two games.

Because the Grizzlies won the season series from the Suns, the Suns have to finish with MORE wins than the Grizz. That would require the Suns to win both of their remaining games, one of which is against the Grizz, while the Grizz lose at least two of three.

While the Suns can take care of one of those losses, someone else has to take care of the other.

The options are the Lakers and the Mavericks. But since the Suns dream scenario includes beating the Grizz, the Mavericks will have already sewn up the 7th seed before the two teams play on Wednesday night. That means the Mavs will (a) likely rest some guys and (b) lose the game, no matter what since the Mavs won't care about the outcome.

The Lakers

Unfortunately, the Lakers are running a bit short-handed. Even more short-handed than two weeks ago when the Suns laid an egg in the Staples Center and left with an embarrassing loss.

They have since lost Chris Kaman, who put up All-Star numbers in that game against the Suns - 28 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists. But even more disappointing, they have lost 6 straight games since beating the Suns and declaring themselves 'haters' and threatening to beat a number of playoff hopefuls.

They have lost to the Blazers, Mavericks, Clippers, Rockets and Warriors over the past two weeks. Unfortunately, it appears the only team they'd negatively impacted is the Suns. :(

The Lakers do have a bit of incentive to win because tonight is their last home game of the year, and they get a chance to mess up another team before bowing out and going on vacation early.

Lakers - Grizzlies

The Lakers have played the Grizzlies tight all year - losing by 3 in November, winning by 4 in November, and then losing by just 5 in late February.

Root for the Lakers tonight, as they try to go out with a bang!

Suns blow another double digit lead as Dallas puts Phoenix playoff hopes half into the grave.

Hey guys.  So that was tough, huh?

After losing to the Mavericks last night the Suns playoff hopes are basically on life support.  Barring a shocking Memphis loss to the Lakers tonight the only scenario that sees the Suns make the playoffs is this:

  • Suns beat Memphis on Monday night - something they haven't done all season even when Marc Gasol wasn't playing.
  • Suns beat Kings on the last day of the season.
  • Dallas beats Memphis on the last day of the season.  This will likely be made 10 times more complicated by the fact that a Suns win over Memphis on Monday would clinch the #7 seed for Dallas so they'd have almost no motivation to roll Dirk Nowitzki or Monta Ellis out for any real playing time. 

If like me you're a Cardinals fan you probably recognize that scenario as the basketball version of 'hope Mike Glennon can lead his 5 win Bucs to a win in the Superdome over the Saints who haven't lost at home all year'.

My advice?  Get in a good place with it.  This is a fun basketball team but by no means was a finished product.  If the Suns don't make it they basically traded 4-6 games with the Spurs for the right to move up 7 spots in the draft.

Saturday April 12th Key Western Conference Results:

Dallas Mavericks 101 Phoenix Suns 98 (Recap) - At the 5:56 mark of the 3rd quarter the Suns led the Mavericks 69-56 and things seemed all awesome.  Over the course of the next 1 minute and 13 seconds Dallas carved 8 points off the lead and continued until the Suns were up just 3 going into the 4th.  That 4th quarter saw Dallas open up a 8 point lead but the Suns hadn't quit quite yet.

Down the stretch the Suns had their chances.  After a missed jumper from Dirk Nowitzki with 52 seconds to go, and the Suns trailing by 2, Dallas fouled Eric Bledsoe about 90 feet from the basket.  But Bledsoe - who had his second straight awesome game (29 points on 11/15 shooting, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals) missed the second free throw and the Suns remained behind.  The door opened for the Suns again when the incendiary Vince Carter missed a three but with a chance to take a lead Gerald Green took an off-balance early offense 10 footer that missed.

Because torture if fun, Monta Ellis missed one free throw on two consecutive possessions and gave the Suns two shots to tie.  On the first try Eric Bledsoe had his layup comfortably rejected by Brandan Wright (who had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks) while the second possession was a Markieff Morris three point attempt for some reason.

Game, set, match.

Current Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.San Antonio
62 18 .775 - 8-2 WON 2
2. Oklahoma City
58 21 .734 3.5
7-3 WON 3
3. LA Clippers
56 24 .700 6 7-3 WON 1
4. Houston 53 27 .663 9 5-5 WON 1
5. Portland
52 28 .650 10 7-3 WON 3
6. Golden State
49 30 .620 12.5 6-4 WON 1
7. Dallas
49 32 .600 13.5 7-3 WON 1
8. Memphis
47 32 .595 14.5
6-4 WON 2
- SUNS
47 33 .588 15 6-4 LOST 2

Sunday April 13th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Grizzlies @ Lakers - Since the Lakers beat the Suns two weeks ago they've lost 6 consecutive games - 5 of them by double digits to Western Conference playoff teams (Portland, Clippers, Houston, Golden State, Dallas).  So you know, that makes me feel great.  Additional note that makes me feel good - Memphis hasn't lost to an under .500 team since losing the Cavs in overtime on February 9th.  I would be really, really surprised if the Grizzlies front line didn't eat the Lakers for lunch, blow them out, and come to Phoenix fairly well rested.

It’s the small things that decide games in the NBA. That has never been more true than in the Phoenix Suns’ 101-98 loss to the Dallas Mavericks tonight. Eric Bledsoe misses a free throw with a chance...

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