The Suns have GOT to win this game tonight to keep moving in the right direction.
Dig deep, ye ol' oranj n purp! Kick them arses!
Dig deep, ye ol' oranj n purp! Kick them arses!
As it is with every remaining game on the Phoenix Suns' schedule, this one tonight against the Utah Jazz has huge playoff implications. The Suns are only 1/2 game out of Utah's 9th place and 1.5 games out of Houston's 8th, the latter being the minimum requirement to keep playing games into May 2012.
While tonight's game does not vault the Suns all the way into the playoff picture, a win would award the Suns sole possession of 9th place over Utah. At least that's better than 10th!
A win tonight will be quite difficult, though, so don't be surprised if the Suns come up short.
However, Utah has lost 3 of their last 4 and most of their rotation is young, not used to the playoff pressure, while the Suns' lineup is full of veteran's accustomed to qualifying and going deep into the playoffs. Just two seasons ago, many of these same Suns finished on a 28-7 tear and blazed through two playoff rounds before bowing out to the LA Kobes.
And this season the Suns are on a roll again. They have gone 15-7 in their last 22 games, many of those against quality opposition. Everyone looks more comfortable in their roles and, hence, are providing more predictable (winning) results. Newcomers Michael Redd, Shannon Brown and even Sebastian Telfair are providing more now than earlier in the season.
But the road is getting sloppier by the day. Gone are the creampuff games. Gone are the long home stretches.
7 of the Suns' last 13 games are on the road, with toughies in that 13 including 2 against Utah, 2 against Denver, 2 against San Antonio, plus the Lakers, Wolves, Grizz, Dragons, Clips and Thunder. The only "easy" game in their last 13 is against the tanking Blazers. A gauntlet, for sure. The Suns HAVE to win more than half of these games and hope someone falls on their face in turn.
The Suns won their only prior matchup with the Jazz this season, 120-111 in Phoenix on March 14. Since then, Utah beaten fellow playoff contestants Wolves, Lakers, Thunder and Nuggets coupled with relevant losses to the Clippers and Kings. Utah's upcoming sked gets tough (two Spurs games, two Suns games, plus Rockets, Grizz and Mavs among their final 12), so they need this win tonight almost as bad as the Suns. The young Jazz have a high-scoring offense and high-scoring defense. The key to beating them is scoring the ball, which the Suns do well.
The next biggest obstacle to the Suns' playoff hopes are the Houston Dragons. They play at the LA Lakers on Friday as part of 7 of their final 12 games on the road. Toughies include @Lakers, Jazz, Suns, 2 against the Nuggs, @Dallas and @Miami. The Suns basically need Houston to lose two more of those toughies than the Suns.
Denver is also a team the Suns could catch. 7 of their last 13 are on the road. Toughies among their final 13 include 2 against the Suns, 2 against the Dragons, 2 against the Wolves, plus Lakers, Clips, Magic and OKC.
This is doable, folks!
Steve Nash recently told his old buddy from Dallas, ESPN's Marc Stein, that he wants to play three more years in the NBA. Nash, as we well know, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and at the ripe young age of 38 thinks that he's got another good run left in him.
It's no small thing for Nash to want to play three more years and certainly leaves the Suns with a pretty big decision to make. Some seem ready to move on from the Nash era, but with no "point guard of the future" waiting in the wings, what's the rush?
Here's my thoughts on the matter.
What do you think? Poll after the jump.
And yes, my pool is very clean now and we'll be swimming soon. Pool party at my house?
The Suns' primary competition for the final two seeds in the Western Conference playoffs (Denver, Utah, Houston) all had the day off, so Phoenix's victory meant they picked up a half game in the standings. Phoenix (27-26) sits just half a game back of the ninth-placed Utah Jazz (28-26), 1.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Houston Rockets (29-25) and two games behind the No. 7 seed Denver Nuggets (29-24).
Make the jump for a look at the Western Conference standings.
Standings courtesy on NBA.com.
Games of Interest Tuesday, April 4:
Once again, though, O.J. Mayo came up huge off the bench. This is exactly the kind of Mayo we ordered -- please forgive me for that one. He's knocking down jumpers, creating strong offensive sets, not getting out-played on defense... we could use more of this Mayo come playoff time. Same goes for Gilbert Arenaswho dropped 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals (0 turnovers) -- just what we signed up for. And did I mention how big Dante Cunningham was off the bench?
Phoenix is currently 3.5 games behind Memphis, so barring the high-stakes card game I talked about last week, it's probably safe to say the Grizzlies are out of the Suns' reach.
Tuesday was a slow night for the Western Conference.
Wednesday looks to be much busier, with all but two teams in the Western Conference taking the floor (Houston and Sacramento have the day off). Keep an eye on Denver @ New Orleans, Golden State @ Minnesota and Memphis @ Dallas.
But the most important game of the night is obviously Phoenix @ Utah. With a victory, the Suns would pick up a full game on the Jazz and would jump them in the standings. Conversely, a loss would put the Suns 1.5 games back of the Jazz and would keep them in the tenth spot.
It's a big game. A win puts the Suns one step closer to the playoffs. A loss would make it that much more difficult (perhaps too much so) for the Suns to secure that No. 8 seed.
Check back later for the game preview, and make sure to drop by the game thread after tip-off to cheer the Sun on with your fellow Bright Siders.