PHOENIX – A lackluster first two games out of the All-Star break might have caused worry for the Phoenix Suns. The week off may have taken away their edge, and it could have drowned the momentum that...

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The San Antonio Spurs will trash the video of this game faster than they can leave the Suns arena. The game was a total blowout for the Suns, to the point that coach Popovich waived the white flag at the 5:39 mark of the third quarter with the Suns holding a 22-point lead.

For the first time since the last milennium (1999), the Phoenix Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs by 20+ points, 106-85.

This was a Suns fan dream at US Airways Center. The Suns started slow but jumped out to a 15-point second quarter lead on the back of Ish Smith, and then a 22-point third quarter lead on the back of Gerald Green.

It's a good night when your best player can be a decoy, as Goran Dragic was on this night. Dragic was a +29 in his minutes, but had only 8 points, 5 assists and 4 turnovers in 28 minutes of play.

The Suns really pulled away in the second quarter with a 19-2 run saw them turn a 19-23 deficit into a 38-25 lead before San Antonio could stem the bleeding. That stemming was performed by none other than Manu Ginobili, who drew two offensive charge calls and made a couple of free throws at that point.

Ish Smith owned that second quarter though: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in that quarter alone.

"I'm like Ricky Bobby. I just wanna go fast." -- Ish Smith

It was the Suns night, folks!

Enjoy these. The Suns are now 33-21.

"They're a really fine team." -- Popovich, on the Suns after getting blown out

Don't go overboard, coach

---

The Spurs came out very cold, with two backcourt violations in the first five minutes of play. Once Channing Frye hit an open three, Spurs coach Popovich had seen enough and called a quick timeout. He replaced starter Corey Joseph with sparkplug Patty Mills to run the point. And Manu Ginobili to help the Spurs go small with Belinelli at the 3.

The Spurs weren't playing very crisp in this game. No surprise given it's their 9th straight road game. But they stayed close while the Suns missed free throws (4 misses) and field goal attempts (13 misses) by the bunch.

End of one: Spurs 23-19.

The Suns second unit, along with Dragic, came out with more fire and aggression. Dragic and Ish played the guard positions, with the Morrii and Channing Frye. This lineup is quick and scrappy, creating the kind of balance that the Suns get with Bledsoe and Dragic out there (remember those days?).

The Suns quickly took a 38-25 lead on a 19-2 run with everyone contributing in a big way while the Spurs went cold.

Finally for the Spurs, the Suns missed an open three and Tim Duncan made a nice move for a and-one to stop the bleeding.

Then Manu Ginobili happened, drawing two offensive fouls on Suns drives to the basket that were so egregious Ginobili will almost certainly be fined. But his tactics worked - the Suns were driven off their rhythm and the Spurs were able to stop the Suns runaway.

At the half, the Suns still led by 12 (47-35) but the Spurs were able to stop the run.

Big time player for that 28-12 second quarter?

Check out this stat line for Ish Smith: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2, steals and 2 blocks. IN THE SECOND QUARTER.

The third quarter showed that the Spurs weren't really dialed into this game. The built the lead to 22 in the first 6.5 minutes while the Spurs clanked jumper after jumper.

Popovich put in four reserves with Danny Green at that point - only halfway through the third - to try to get some energy out there. It only halfway worked.

Hornacek talked on Wednesday night about the Suns needing to develop a killer instinct, to keep building on leads, turning 8 points into 10 then 12 or 13. Twice against the Celtics, the Suns got lazy on defense and allowed an 8-point lead to drop to 4 instead of pushing it bigger.

Tonight, the Suns kept pushing until it was 22 point lead halfway through the third, to the point Popovich put in the deep, deep reserves. The presence of backups must have made the Suns take the foot off the pedal, as they lost focus and began to allow the lead to drop to 17.

Ish Smith came back to get spark back into the team, but the Suns went soft on defense and allowed the Spurs to get offensive rebounds and make open jumpers.

And Archie Goodwin came in, primarily because Leandro Barbosa was out of the lineup but who cares right?

This has to be the kind of game a coach loves. Dragic has been a decoy all night while Ish Smith has run the team to a huge lead over the Spurs.

The fourth quarter was all about trying to one-up each other at times, like when Aaron Baynes one-hand dunked over Markieff Morris and then Marcus returned the favor on Baynes two minutes later. BOOM.

But really my favorite part of the 4th quarter was Archie Goodwin. We hadn't seen him in a game in two months, since Leandro Barbosa was signed after Archie had lost his confidence/way.

Tonight we saw Archie's entire game: drive/finish, putback dunk, tight defense, bigtime block...and airballed wide open three. That kid still has a lot to learn, but he's a good one folks. A real good one.

Archie and Ish were joined by Alex Len, Slava Kravtsov and Dionte Christmas for the last 3 minutes of the game.

Time: 7 p.m. MST TV: FSA A late February home affair might not qualify as a measuring stick game for the Phoenix Suns anymore than the previous 53 they’ve played in have. Nonetheless, despite...

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The surging Phoenix Suns, winners of 11 of 16 games, face the mighty Borg-like San Antonio Spurs who appear to be able to beat any team with any lineup.

The Phoenix Suns have lost both prior games against the San Antonio Spurs, by three points in the first week of the season and then by 9 at home as one of only 3 losses in December.

Both games featured healthy sides, which is different this time around. The Suns are without Eric Bledsoe, and the Spurs are likely without at least Tony Parker.

The Suns are about to face a difficult second-half schedule, starting with the Spurs tonight in Phoenix.

The Opponent - "The Borg"

Those crazy Spurs are somehow able to beat any team with any lineup. On Wednesday night, they sat Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker (variety of maladies) and still beat the Portland Trailblazers behind 29 points from Patty Mills (of course) and 20 from 3-point champ Belinelli (of course). The Blazers were missing Aldridge though, so that kind of evened the score, right?

The night before that, the Spurs beat a fairly healthy Los Angeles Clipper squad (missing only J.J. Redick) without Parker and Leonard.

Speaking of Tony Parker, he missed the last game before the All-Star break and has been declared out "for the foreseeable future" for a "variety of maladies" since the break. But he magically was okay for the All-Star game itself, by effect not allowing another injury substitution which could have been Goran Dragic.

The Borg is the Borg. They know their roles so well they can beat anyone with any lineup. Who knows who will play tonight against the Suns - just expect great execution. And if the Suns can't find a way to play better than they did against Denver and Boston this week, expect a loss to the Spurs.

The Suns

Despite playing poorly, the Suns found a way to win their two winnable games this week - in Denver, and hosting Boston. Neither game was a big challenge, but for a young Suns team unaccustomed to being favored, that's a real plus and should be seen as a positive sign for the rest of the season.

You WANT to be able to win games even when you're not playing well. That's the Suns lately, who have now gone 11-5 in their last 16 games without Bledsoe after a 2-5 dip in the first 7 without him.

Check that again: 11-5 in their last 16 games without their second-best player. That's pretty good.

The Stats

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The Lineups

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No one knows who the Spurs will play or sit until later in the day, and sometimes just before tip. With Duncan resting on Wednesday, I assume he will play tonight. Leonard is probably, so he might replace Green or Belinelli in the starting lineup.

Parker is out "for the foreseeable future", per the coach, with officially listed injury called "wrist sprain/body soreness". It's possible that Popovich couldn't see to Friday as of Tuesday, so it's anyone's guess whether Parker will play.

The Key Matchup

The Spurs' unknowns vs. the Suns' unknowns. Can Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Ish Smith and Miles Plumlee hold their own against Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, Corey Joseph and Jeff Ayres?

We know the big names, and if they play they will play well. It's the other guys on the Spurs who can derail the Suns' hope for a win.

The Prediction

While Mike Lisboa predicts a loss (see the '29 to go' article this morning), I'm going to break the mold and predict a win.

I think the Suns will come out firing on their home court and ultimately scratch and claw to a win. And the Spurs will shrug and move on to the next game because they are the Spurs.

The surprising, upstart, when-are-they-gonna-come-back-to-earth, cant-win-a-playoff-round Phoenix Suns need to win more than they lose the rest of the way to safely make the playoffs. Can they do it?

Predictions are a fool's errand.  I'm pretty sure a few days ago I wrote that we should all burn our expectations for the Phoenix Suns since they keep doing their thing regardless of what anyone else expects of them.  But as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Foolish consistency has been the name of the game in Phoenix this season.  Noted philosopher P.J. Tucker himself said:

For the lack of a better word, we're just kind of stupid. We're just like, ‘We're going to win.'

And Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough was foolishly consistent in thwarting expectations by not making any moves at the NBA trade deadline.  With the team standing pat, the Phoenix Suns now officially are who we thought they were. ESPN's Playoff Odds predictor gives the Dallas Mavericks a 68.2% chance of making the playoffs by snagging the 8-seed with a record of 47-35.  They've got Phoenix with a 78.4% chance in the 7-spot with a projected finish of 48-34.

Armed with that speculative knowledge and the fuel of noted thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and P.J. Tucker, let's look at the rest of the Suns' season and see how they might fare coming into the home stretch.  I think 47-50 wins is going to be necessary to make the playoff in the Western Conference.  Phoenix needs to win 15-18 of their remaining 30 games.  .500 ball isn't too tall of an order, is it?  OR IS IT?

I'm making a couple of assumptions here.  No further injuries are sustained.  If and when Eric Bledsoe returns, his reintegration into the line-up will be seamless.  The Suns maintain their current level of play.  Let's dive in and see how foolishly consistent this team can be.

Holding Court

Phoenix plays 7 of their next 8 games in U.S Airways Center before finishing with 14 of their last 21 games on the road.  Here's my take on the magnificent 7.

Loss - San Antonio Spurs, Friday 2/21 - Phoenix has lost 2 games to San Antonio already this season, and I don't see how they win a third.  It's getting to be statement time in the west and I think Tim Duncan and company will be ready for the Suns.

Loss - Houston Rockets, Sunday 2/23 - The Suns' early win at Houston came against an injury-depleted squad with an injured James Harden.  In the rematch, the Suns got flat outplayed.  I think Houston's too good in too many places for the Suns to overcome.

Win - Minnesota Timberwolves, Tuesday 2/25 - Kevin Love is coming to Phoenix!  Hopefully that's the last time that gets typed this season.  The Suns won a nail-biter against the Wolves in Minnesota earlier this season.  I don't think they'll need Gerald Green heroics this time around.

Win - AT Utah Jazz, Wednesday, 2/26 -  Phoenix is 2-1 versus the Jazz this season.  Pepsi Center is a tough place to play.  12 of Utah's 19 wins have come at home.  Phoenix is only 7-6 on the second night of a back-to-back, including a loss to Utah.  Whatever.  Suns win against a Utah team whose every victory hurts their draft position.

Win - New Orleans Pelicans, Friday 2/28 - New Orleans might be a tough team to beat next season.  This is not next season.

Win - Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, 3/2 - Phoenix beats a playoff team handily!  Eastern Conference playoff team, but still.

Loss - Los Angeles Clippers, Tuesday 3/4 - Phoenix smoked the Clips in LA to close out 2013 on a high note.  Doc Rivers and the team will remember and bring their A-game to Phoenix.

Win - Oklahoma City Thunder, Thursday 3/6 - A win?  Against the best team in the west?  Why not.  The Suns played OKC down to the wire in Oklahoma earlier this season.  This time, the home team wins.

Results - 5 wins and 3 losses take the Suns to 37-24, just 10 games from the 8 seed with 21 games left.

Road Warriors

The going gets tough now.  Five of the next 6 Suns games are away from Phoenix en route to the aforementioned 14 of 21 on the road.  Phoenix has won 14 and lost 12 on the road so far so they travel fairly well.  And they will need to to make the playoffs.

Loss - AT Golden State Warriors, Sunday 3/9 - After winning a close first match of the season, PHX and the Dubs have traded big wins in their last 2 match-ups.  I think the pendulum swings toward the home team here.

Loss - AT Los Angeles Clippers, Monday 3/10 - Second night of a back-to-back? Against the Pacific-leading Clippers?  I don't like this one bit for Phoenix.

Win - Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday 3/12 - The Cavs are a mess even with Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng.  They might play sneaky close, but not well enough to beat the Suns at home.

Win - AT Boston Celtics, Friday 3/14 - Scrapfest Part 2!  This won't be as close as the first match-up.  Phoenix kicks off a 3-game road trip the right way.

Loss - AT Toronto Raptors, Sunday 3/16 - I know what you're thinking: a loss to the Raptors?!  Here's my caveat.  I started to type "Win", but then noticed the 10:00AM MST start time.  I think that's enough to throw a western team off its game against a competitive Toronto squad.

Loss - AT Brooklyn Nets, Monday 3/17 - Second game of a back-to-back on St. Patrick's day in New York City?  I'm favoring a Brooklyn team that seems to be finding its legs.

Win - Orlando Magic, Wednesday 3/19 - Orlando might be a tough team to beat next season.  This is not next season.

Win - Detroit Pistons, Friday 3/21 - Greg Monroe is coming to Phoenix!  To lose!  Tough size match-up for Phoenix, but they barely lost in Detroit.  They are not getting swept by the Pistons

Win - AT Minnesota Timberwolves, Sunday 3/23 - Phoenix puts a coffin nail in Minnesota's chances of keeping Kevin Love, spurring an offseason of Love to Phoenix fanposts.

Loss - AT Atlanta Hawks, Monday 3/24 - I'm really hating on the back-to-backs, I know.  But I think Phoenix will probably be gassed after a tough game in Minneapolis the night before.  And Atlanta is a playoff team after all (snicker).

Win - AT Washington Wizards, Wednesday 3/26 - Hello, Marin Gortat!  Remember what winning basketball was like? Because the Suns will remember that home loss and look to return the favor.

Win - New York Knicks, Friday 3/28 - By this point, the Suns will need to have figured out how to function against plodding, life-draining teams like the Knicks.  I hope.

Win - AT Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday 3/30 - At this point, beating the Lakers is almost no fun.  Just kidding!  It's still awesome if a little joyless.  Remember this when the Durant-Wiggins-Love Lakers are playing Godzilla to the Western Conference's Japan in a couple years.

Win - Loss Angeles Clippers, Wednesday 4/2 - I refuse to believe the Suns will get punked by Blake Griffin 3 times in a row.  Especially not with this game being at home.

Loss - AT Portland Trailblazers 4/4 - Phoenix has had Portland's number so far this season.  This will be a chippy-ass affair and advantage goes to the home team.

Loss - Oklahoma City Thunder 4/6 - A championship-minded Thunder put the upstart Suns back in their place.

Win - AT New Orleans Pelicans 4/9 - Unless that mascot suits up, I think Phoenix takes care of business.

Loss - AT San Antonio Spurs 4/11 - Maybe I'm traumatized from the Nash years.  I just don't like the Suns against the Spurs, least of all in San Antonio.

Win - AT Dallas Mavericks 4/12 - In a contest crucial to playoff seeding, Phoenix rises to the occasion.  On the second night of a back-to-back no less!

Win - Memphis Grizzlies 4/14 - What do we say to the Memphis Grizzlies team that has beaten Phoenix 3 times already this year?  Not today.

Win - Sacramento Kings 4/16 - Phoenix finishes strong, riding a 3-game winning streak into the playoffs and helping Sacramento secure a high draft pick.

Playoff Bound

Results - I've got the Suns going 13-8 over this rough stretch, bringing their season record to 50-32.  I like that.  To perfectly double their win total from last season is 100% improvement.  That should be good enough for the playoffs and maybe even for getting them to the 6th seed.  The Western Conference is just too stacked to hope for much higher at this point.  Regardless of how right or wrong this projection may be, the Suns don't have to overachieve to maintain a spot in the playoffs.  They just need to keep demonstrating that foolish consistency

Think I pegged win where there should have been a loss?  Maybe the other way around and Phoenix takes over the Pacific to snag the 4 seed?  Let us know in the comments!


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