The Spurs take care of Dallas while the Warriors get Mosgov'd.

In the comments of yesterday's playoff report an exchange with Nate_Sun86 led me to prepare a breakdown of all scenarios where the Suns went 2-1 over their next 3 and also 1-2 over their next 3.  One of the assumptions I made in those scenarios was that Dallas would defeat San Antonio last night.  So I threw it on the ground.  Because I'm an adult and not a part of your system I had almost a fully flushed out word document with the new scenarios which took into account the Dallas loss - then Golden State lost to the Nuggets.

That loss brought all sorts of other tiebreaker scenarios to the forefront and broke my brain entirely.  But since I'm nice - here's roughly where we are tiebreaker wise:

  • Suns/Mavericks - head to head even at 1-1, winner of Saturday's game wins the tiebreaker.
  • Suns/Grizzlies -  Grizzlies are up 3-0 on head to head and have already won the tiebreaker.
  • Grizzlies/Mavericks -  Mavericks are up 3-0 head to head and have already won the tiebreaker.
  • Suns/Warriors -  head to head is even at 2-2 so we move to the next tiebreaker for teams in the same division - division record, which is clinched by GSW already (10-5 to 7-8).
  • Suns/Mavs/Grizz -  the tiebreaker is record in games among the three teams, Dallas is 4-1, Memphis is 3-3, and Phoenix is 1-4.  Each team has 2 to play. The only way this goes well for the Suns is if Memphis loses their last 2 and the Suns win their last 2 but if that happens there won't be a 3 way tie anyway.
  • Suns/Grizz/Warriors - same three way tiebreaker.  Memphis is 5-2 (2-2 against GSW, 3-0 against Phoenix), Golden State is 4-4 (2-2 against Phoenix/Memphis), and Phoenix is 2-5 (0-3 against Memphis, 2-2 against GSW).  Suns would be dead here. 
  • Suns/Mavs/Warriors - same three way tiebreaker.  Golden State is 5-3 (2-2 against Phoenix, 3-1 against Dallas), Phoenix is 3-3 (2-2 against Golden State, 1-1 against Dallas), and Dallas is 2-4 (1-1 against Phoenix, 1-3 against Golden State).  In the highly unlikely (and potentially impossible event the Suns lose to Dallas and tie these teams, they're done.

If any of that is wrong feel free to correct me - I'm sitting in a staff meeting at the moment.

Thursday April 10th Key Western Conference Results:

San Antonio Spurs 109 Dallas Mavericks 100 (Recap) -  Tony Parker didn't play for the Spurs but it didn't matter.  Hell Patty Mills took 25 shots and only scored 26 points and it still didn't matter (although it helped he shot 6/11 from three).  The Spurs are really good at winning games.  Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 24 points and you're not reading this part so I'm just going to go into a shopping list - I need cereal and milk.  I like cereals with cartoon mascots on the box.

Denver Nuggets 100 Golden State Warriors 99 (Recap) -  I'll admit I barely even bothered to watch this game because I thought the Full Squad would take care of business.  The Nuggets trailed this game by as many as 12 in the 3rd quarter but the heavenly ascension of Timofey Mosgov (23 points and 29 - yes 29 - rebounds) allowed them to keep it close.  It looked like Golden State was going to survive when Steph Curry hit a floater with 5 seconds left but Denver got the ball into Kenneth Faried who hit a shot in the lane to take the game.  Steph Curry led Golden State with 24 points and Klay Thompson added 21.

Golden State is still the favorite to finish with the 6 seed in the West but they finish with 3 of their last 4 games on the road (@Lakers, @Blazers, v. Minnesota, @Denver).  Mark Jackson - the door is ajar.

Current Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.San Antonio
61 18 .772 - 8-2 WON 1
2. Oklahoma City
57 21 .731 3.5
7-3 WON 2
3. LA Clippers
55 24 .696 6 7-3 LOST 1
4. Houston 52 26 .667 8.5 6-4 LOST 1
5. Portland
51 28 .646 10 6-4 WON 2
6. Golden State
48 30 .615 12.5 6-4 LOST 1
7. SUNS
47 31 .603 13.5 8-2 WON 3
8. Dallas
48 32 .600 13.5
6-4 LOST 1
- Memphis
46 32 .590 14.5 6-4 WON 1

Friday April 11th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Suns @ Spurs - At this point of the morning we don't really even know who's going to play for either team. Coro reported that Dragic is questionable with an ankle injury (roughly his 10 millionth) while other reports suggest both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are going to sit out tonight.  Parker has sat the last two games while Duncan suffered a bit of a knee scare in the 1st half last night but still played 39 minutes.  I don't think there's any shame in saying we have no clue what's going to happen tonight, so I'll say Spurs by 10.

76ers @ Grizzlies - I hear a lot of you say things like "anything can happen any night in the NBA" and "they're all NBA players" - but when your team has won 2 games since February started I don't think any of that applies.  The Sixers are bad and they should feel bad.  Memphis will win this game by 73.  Need a morning laugh?  Go check out the Philly roster.

Warriors @ Lakers Won't some other playoff contender sleepwalk through a game with a bad Lakers team and take a horrible loss?  If so I'd really appreciate it.  The odds are against Golden State suffering a second consecutive bad loss but at least the Lakers are sort of an NBA team - unlike Philly.

Programming alert: Join the VotS crew for a Google Hangout video chat at 4 p.m. MST. We’ll preview the game and the road ahead. Time: 5:30 p.m. MST TV: FSA From friend to foe in less than 24...

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Across the Internet, Thursdays have turned into Throwback Thursdays, where social media users and abusers post old pictures of themselves. ValleyoftheSuns has decided to jump into the Phoenix Suns’...

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As the Suns survive, the Grizzlies grab an enormous win against the two-time defending champions.

If you are a fan of backing into the playoffs then last night was not the night for you.  With the Memphis win over Miami, the Suns are basically going to have to split their next two games (@Spurs, @Mavericks) to avoid a potential elimination game with Memphis on Monday.  This is of course conditioned on the Grizzlies winning their next two games - but since those games are home against Philly and at the Lakers - logic would suggest they're going to take care of business.

So if the Suns lose both of their weekend contests and the Grizzlies earn their expected results, the Grizz/Suns will meet on Monday with the Suns trailing by a game and the tiebreaker already lost.  That would mean the Suns would need to beat Memphis, beat Sacramento, and have Dallas beat Memphis (in Memphis) just to make the playoffs. Basically the Suns can't lose both games this weekend.

There's your morning pessimism.  On to the recap:

Wednesday April 9th Key Western Conference Results:

Phoenix Suns 94 New Orleans Pelicans 88 (Recap) -  I honestly don't think this game could have been uglier.  In the preview thread a few of us wound up in a typically ridiculous exchange regarding what would happen in the event the Suns lost to a Pelicans team playing without Anthony Davis and pretty much every other relevant player on the team other than Tyreke Evans.  In the proposed alternate history hellscape, Alex Skinner brought up coming upon a barely surviving Al McCoy who uttered "Shaa-- Shazaam" and then I added that with his dying breath he'd mutter "Withey....."

As I watched this game come down to the wire and completely ignored the coworkers I foolishly agreed to go to happy hour with (side note -  do not agree to go to a happy hour with coworkers who don't care about basketball during the middle of a playoff race.  I'm an idiot) I couldn't help but think that the prophecy would come true and Bright Side would descend into a Jeff Withey, old Pierre the Pelican, and King Cake Baby-run police state.

Luckily for those of us who didn't want to be slaves to the King Cake Baby regime, Eric Bledsoe came up with a clutch steal, assist, and jumper in a 48 second stretch to help give the Suns a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Crazy Uncle Gerald scored 21 points (4/7 from three) to lead the Suns while the Dragon added 20 and Bledsoe put in 16 (all in the 2nd half).  As you all know, I'm no basketball genius but to make the playoffs the Suns should probably avoid going 4 minutes and 32 seconds without a basket at the start of the 2nd half the rest of the way.

Our proposed overlord Jeff Withey led the Pelicans with 17 points - which I'm sure you won't be surprised to find is his career high.

Memphis Grizzlies 107 Miami Heat 102 (Recap) -   I guess we shouldn't be totally surprised but we can certainly be disappointed.  Miami was playing with Dwayne Wade, Greg Oden, Udonis Haslem, and potentially most surprisingly Chris Andersen and they simply ran out of steam against a motivated Grizzlies team.  The champs led by 7 with 2 and a half minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter but Memphis went on a 36-17 run over the next 13 minutes and took the game.

Without Andersen helping to man the middle, the Grizzlies bigs dominated the Miami front line.  Zach Randolph scored 25 points on 12/15 shooting while Marc Gasol had 20 points of his own.  Mike Conley chipped in 26.  When all three of those guys are going for the Grizz they are a tough team to beat.  LeBron James led Miami with 37 points but the 2nd leading scorer was Rashard Lewis.  If your 2nd leading scorer is Rashard Lewis and it isn't 2009 - you're gonna have a bad time.

Current Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.San Antonio
60 18 .769 - 8-2 LOST 1
2. Oklahoma City
57 21 .731 3
7-3 WON 2
3. LA Clippers
55 24 .696 5.5 7-3 LOST 1
4. Houston 52 26 .667 8 6-4 LOST 1
5. Portland
51 28 .646 9.5 6-4 WON 2
6. Golden State
48 29 .623 11.5 7-3 WON 2
7. Dallas
48 31 .608 12.5 7-3 WON 4
8. SUNS
47 31 .603 13
8-2 WON 3
- Memphis
46 32 .590 14 6-4 WON 1

Thursday April 10th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Spurs @ Mavericks -  Tony Parker isn't playing and Manu Ginobili left the Spurs last game with a left calf contusion.  With the Spurs having all but clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs and coming off a spanking at the hands of the T'Wolves you begin to wonder what their level of motivation will be tonight.  Dallas will want this game more but I've learned to never underestimate Pop magic.

Nuggets @ Warriors - If the Warriors win this game I'll ignore them for the rest of the season.  If they lose then they might put themselves a LITTLE more in play.  David Lee remains out for Full Squad while the Nuggets are coming off a pair of scrappy battles against the Rockets - one of which they won.

The Phoenix Suns are still picked to lose the battle for the playoffs vs. Memphis and Dallas, but a closer look at the numbers shows the Suns are the best of the three teams.

With just a few games to play, most NBA observers are still counting the inexperienced, upstart Phoenix Suns out of the playoff picture despite the Suns holding a one-game lead over Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th spot and being just one win behind Dallas Mavericks for the 7th spot with four games to play.

Current standings:

  • Dallas 48-31, 7th place, remaining games against San Antonio, Phoenix, Memphis
  • Phoenix 47-31, 8th place, remaining games against San Antonio, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento
  • Memphis 46-32, 9th place, remaining games against Philadelphia, Lakers, Phoenix, Dallas
If you credit Memphis with wins over the lowly Sixers and Lakers, and Phoenix with a win over Sacramento, that gives all three teams 48 wins with the only games remaining against themselves or the San Antonio Spurs.

Crikey!

Phoenix MUST end the season with more wins than Memphis, since Memphis has the tiebreaker over the Suns no matter what happens in their game. If Phoenix beats Dallas, then Phoenix has the tiebreaker over Dallas.

In a three-way tie, Phoenix would lose out because of the 4 losses already to Dallas and Memphis this season.

Looks like it could take 50 wins to make the playoffs in the West, and that a 49-win team could be sent home without a ticket to the dance.

But who is playing best?

Memphis has gotten a lot of publicity for charging back into the playoff picture once their center, Marc Gasol, got healthy and Dallas has Dirk so... of course they are going to close out the clutch wins.

But it's the Phoenix Suns who are playing the best basketball of the three teams fighting for those last two spots.

Let's take a look at how each team has fared in their last 25 games with their preferred starting lineups. Everyone's healthy, so let's match up each other's best and duke it out.

But hey, you say, that could just be because the Suns have played the easier schedule. Certainly, the mighty Grizzlies with Gasol and Randolph and fiesty Mavericks with closer Dirk will be better on the bigger stage against playoff-worthy foes, right?

Against playoff teams (East and West), during that 25 games
  • Phoenix Suns - 10 wins, 4 losses against current playoff teams
  • Memphis Grizzlies - 7 wins, 7 losses against current playoff teams
  • Dallas Mavericks - 5 wins, 7 losses against current playoff teams
Hmm, so the Suns are doing pretty well against the playoff teams too? That's strange. The Suns sport an "upstart" lineup full of also-rans, underachievers and journeymen. How can this be?

Maybe the Suns are just feasting on the weak teams in the East. Certainly, against the mighty West is where the Suns will come up short.

Against Western Conference playoff teams (during that 25-game stretch)
  • Phoenix Suns - 6 wins, 3 losses against West playoff teams
  • Memphis Grizzlies - 2 wins, 3 losses against West playoff teams
  • Dallas Mavericks - 4 wins, 4 losses against West playoff teams
So, while the Suns have only played nine of those games against West playoff teams, that's more than the other contenders. The Grizzlies have only played five, while the Mavericks have split eight.

I encourage the nation to think again about which of these three teams will fail the head-to-head test over these last few games of the season. During wins over Portland and Oklahoma City in the past week, opposing coaches and players admitted the Suns just wanted it more. The Suns outworked, outhustled, and outplayed those playoff teams who were fighting for their own seeding position in the West.

It is SO FITTING that these three teams play each other at the end of the season. It really is a play-in series, and may the best team win. Certainly, the hottest team and most successful of the three is the Phoenix Suns.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Phoenix.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

#ignited

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