BRING THE FUROR ROBIN.  BRING THE PAIN.

Tonight, with only nine games left to play in the irregular season, the Phoenix Suns take their road party to Memphis to face the Grizzlies for the final time. The first two matches were in Phoenix and closely contested - but in the end it was Phoenix that pulled out the victories.

Here is the scenario - the Memphis Grizzlies currently sit in 5th place in the Western Conference Playoff scheme and are looking to chase down the Los Angeles Clippers who they trail by only a 0.5 game for a coveted home-court advantage. They should be playing with a lot of determination tonight for that reason alone - but add to it the fact that they are 0-2 against the Suns and would make a bet that the Grizzlies will come out with some serious intensity tonight.

The Suns on the other hand - in theory - should be playing with more urgency given their current place in the playoff hunt, just one game out a spot altogether. Also of note is the reality that these are two of the hottest teams in the league right now since the All-Atar break and both are peaking at just the right time for a strong end-of-season/playoff push. This will be a difficult road game to win. This is the final countdown - nine games left on the schedule and the remaining games are no walk in the park (@Houston, @Spurs, Portland, OKC, LA. Clippers, Denver, @Utah and again against San Antonio to end the season). I believe the Suns can extend their current winning streak to three and they are going to have to win this game if they want to continue to fight for a playoff spot ... but there are a few things that concern me - more after the jump.

HOT TUB EUTY-MACHINE

To get things started let's all chug some illegal Russian energy drinks and take a look into the past before we peer into the future. What happened in those first two meetings at U.S. Airways Center?

Memphis Grizzlies 84 - Phoenix Suns 86

Sat, Jan 28, 2012

And now a look at my own game recap -

Phoenix Suns Delete the Grizzlies and Find a Rare Home Win 86-84 - Bright Side Of The Sun


Nash, Dudley, Hill, Frye and Gortat got the starting nod as Alvin Gentry went back to the original starting 5 that began the season. All but one of these starters came out with fire in their eyes and we'll talk about Channing Frye in a second. But it was another double-double for Marcin Gortat (though he shot poorly from the field going 6-17, 35%), a season high 20 points for Jared Dudley, a 21 and 6 night for Steve Nash and Grant Hill was the BAMF we have yearning to see with his legs back and kept Rudy Gay in check as he only poured in 18 (7-15) which is well short of his usual 25 points he lights up against the Suns on average. With the scoring of Zach Randolph missing that was just enough to give the Suns a victory.

Two elements in this game we won't see tonight? 1) Grant Hill in, 2) Z-Bo out. We will get back to that later. It's crazy to remember all the lineup shifting Gentry did at the start of the season - also for kicks and giggles check the comments section and remember what you felt like when the suns were just 7-12.

Next game = another Suns victory. Check it.

Memphis Grizzlies 91 - Phoenix Suns 98

Sat, Mar 10, 2012

And a look at the rage-post thrown up the next day at Straight Outta Vancouver ... Tee hee hee.

Grizzlies vs. Suns Video Highlights: Grizzlies Fall In the Inevitable Let-Down Game - Straight Outta Vancouver

We almost saw this coming. For some time now, it only seemed like a matter of time before we would fall in what we like to call a "let-down" game. And last night against the Suns, in a 98-91 loss, we saw our 5-game win streak snapped at the hands of a Suns team who is starting to make a nice surge of their own. Don't get me wrong, we're still a better team than the Suns, but last night we ran into a hot-hand in Jared Dudley and failed miserably off the glass. There's no reason to be giving up 17 offensive rebounds. None.

I won't deny that the Grizzlies are a better team ... or will I? My brain tells me that Memphis has a better roster with better talent and sport a better record - but my brain is also telling me not to count the Suns out because we have seen what kind of run a Steve Nash / Grant Hill-lead team can make in the playoffs when they are counted out ... so I just listen to my heart and eat pizza.

But once again in that win there were two elements of note. 1) Grant Hill in, and 2) Z-Bo out. Again we'll mention that later because it might be important tonight.

Let's take a look at tonight's match-ups.

MATCH-UPS

Steve Nash Mike Conley
Shannon Brown Quincy Pondexter
Jared Dudley Rudy Gay
Channing Frye Marreese Speights
Marcin Gortat Marc Gasol

Key Memphis Subs: OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, and Dante Cunningham (remember that one Time Amare facialized ... ah the memories) - Tony Allen is questionable for the game.

So this is what scares me - no Grant Hill in the line-up to check Rudy Gay, and Zach Randolph coming off the bench for the Grizz. That is where I question - can Jared Dudley stay in front of Gay? Is Robin Lopez playing at a high-enough level that he can hold his own against the mulit-threats of Z-Bo?

These questions are what make me a little anxious for this game tonight. Here are my keys otherwis:

EUTY-KEYS

Limit Turnovers - we did great against the Lakers (only 3 turnovers all game) ... and then turned it over 9 times in the first quarter against the T-Wolves. Memphis is very good defensively and thievery is a definite strong-point for these guys. MUST. PROTECT. THE. BALL.

I like my BEASTS Down LOW, down low, down low ... - Our 4s and 5s are going to need to be on point. Like I mentioned already, Z-Bo off the bench? Marc Gasol is a load, very skilled and strong, Speights is a workhorse and they might even bring Haddadi in to bang a bit. It is going to be on Channing, Marcin, Robin and Markieff to stop these guys and play sound defense in the paint. No more of this stupid quick-foul-trouble habit Gortat has developed.

* Note: I also expect Hakim Warrick to play a few minutes, maybe 8-14 given the track-record of Gentry to always let Hak get some burn against his former team. Players morph into mutant players when they play their old teams and A.G. knows that.

Continued Bench Mob - Our bench has been great, and they are the reason we have been playing so well as of late, so logic would only suggest that we need the bench to continue to ball-out if we want to extend this winning streak and better our chances at a PO spot. Paul Coro wrote a nice little piece about the bench last night, have a look for yourself.

'Organized chaos' paces Phoenix Suns' bench crew
When the all-reserve crew of Sebastian Telfair, Michael Redd, Josh Childress, Markieff Morris and Robin Lopez have played together, the Suns have outscored teams by 26 in those 96 minutes. It does not match the rate that the original starting five has outscored teams, but these subs play at a faster pace by 4.6 possessions per 48 minutes.

That is it for me - I'll see you in the game thread, ROLL CALL in full effect so bring your A-game.

Peep the comp - good preview over at the Grizzly-den.

Straight Outta Vancouver

Suns vs Grizzlies coverage

REMINDER - THE GAME STARTS AT 5 P.M. AZ TIME!



As has been the case more often than not since the Bright Side began tracking the playoff fight in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns did not get any help from other teams. Only one of the six games on Tuesday night featured teams in the West, and the result of that game was not the one Suns fans were hoping for.

While most of the Western Conference got the night off, teams in the East were hard at work, many of them in their own playoff race.

Make the jump for Tuesday night's scores, a new nickname for Vince Carter and the most recent playoff standings.

NBA Western Conference Playoff Standings as of April 10, 2012:

4-10_playoff_standings_medium

Dallas Mavericks (7) BEAT Sacramento Kings, 110-100

Dallas Mavericks Rook the Kings 110-100

To be honest, tonight, the Mavs survived their warts more than overcame them. It looks good in the box score, but they turned the ball over so much in the first half that you could reasonably be confused who was the point guard for which team. They missed a lot of easy layups and open looks. In all honesty, they probably don’t win this game if the Kings have a center to keep the Mavs off the board. But when you lose to teams like the Cavs and the Hornets you don’t much complain about nights like these.

DeMarcus Cousins' monster 25 point, 18 rebound performance was not enough to give the Suns the help they needed. The Mavericks remain in 7th place in the West and picked up half a game on the Suns.

And now a little bonus coverage from the Mavs' recap:

The highlight of the night, since the Mavericks won, was a Vince Carter dunk attempt that started as a soaring slam from the middle of the pant, turned into a layup halfway through, and ended up on the front rim. Half Man Little Light on Gas These Days.

Wednesday's WC Games to Keep an Eye On: PHX@MEM (obviously), UTA@HOU, LAC@OKC, LAL@SAS, MIN@DEN

Similar to the Western Conference, the Eastern Conference playoff seeds are far from locked up. The East can be broken down into three groups.

The first group is Chicago and Miami, the two teams competing for the East's top seed.

The second group includes Indiana, Atlanta, Boston and Orlando. 1.5 games separate the Pacers in third place from the Magic in sixth, with Atlanta and Boston sandwiched between them.

The final group is the one fighting for the 7th and 8th seeds, and it includes Philadelphia, New York and Milwaukee. Two games separate the 76ers in seventh place from the Bucks in ninth.

NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Standings as of April 10, 2012:

4-10_ec_playoff_standings_medium

Spencer Hawes, Sixers bounce back against Nets, regain 7th seed

It's really hard to read too much into the game, as the Nets are exactly the type of team the Sixers should feast on, but with recent horrible losses to Washington and Toronto (along with numerous losses to good teams), just playing good basketball and taking care of a team was nice to see.

The 76ers have been struggling mightily as of late, but a few line-up changes and a game against the New Jersey Nets were all it took to get back on track. They'll have to hope the new rotations are enough to hold onto their playoff spot with the Knicks and Bucks breathing down their necks.

Wizards 93, Magic 85: Orlando Struggles Offensively in Loss to Washington

One night after performing like a finely tuned offensive machine against Detroit, the Orlando Magic were nowhere near as sharp offensively, as no Magic starter shot over 50% from the field, and the team shot just 36.6% overall. The Washington Wizards took advantage of the absence of Dwight Howard in the middle as Kevin Seraphin had a career night of 24 points on 11 of 16 shooting, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the 93-85 Wizards' victory, which broke a nine-game Magic winning streak over the Wizards.

The Magic have some serious issues and are not playing well at all as the playoffs approach.

Heat Fall To Celtics Again 115-107

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat came up short against the Boston Celtics for the second straight time on Tuesday night.

The Celtics handed the Heat their 2nd loss in the last 3 games, lead by 27 points from Paul Pierce and 24 points and 9 rebounds from Kevin Garnett.

With the loss, Miami now stands three games back of Chicago, while the victory for Boston puts the Celtics up three games on Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.

Bulls 98, Knicks 86: "We look like a team that doesn't have a point guard."

Well, I guess splitting a home-and-home with Chicago isn't much to complain about, but it was still disappointing to see the Knicks get trampled by a Derrick Rose-less bunch of Bulls. Carmelo Anthony had another excellent scoring game, but like StarksMiddleFinger said in the game thread, the Knicks looked very much like a team without a point guard.

The Knicks better figure out their point guard situation soon. Jeremy Lin has said he probably won't make it back for the first round of the playoffs, and that's IF they even make it. The Knicks play the Bucks tonight on ESPN in a huge game.

Chicago, meanwhile, did just fine without their own point guard and reigning League MVP Derrick Rose. Interesting stat: Kyle Korver led the Bulls with three blocked shots. As Jeff Van Gundy said during the game last night, "You don't take it into the paint on Kyle Korver!"


Okay, okay...he may not be burning up like Kobe does when he wants to, but there is very little you could complain about his play over the past 9 or so games. In fact he has gone from one of the least favorite coming into the season to one of the favorites over the past month. He has inserted himself into the starting unit with skill without disrupting the increasingly stable starting 5.

How has he managed to change his ugly shot jacking identity to a well rounded starting shooting guard who seems to hit all the timely shots that this Suns team needs down the stretch. According to the coaching staff and Brown it has really just him becoming acclimated to the openness of the Phoenix Suns system.

When he was on the Lakers he was forced to backup The Black Mamba, and lets be honest, he didn't get all that much leading scorer type playing time. Not to mention he was in the triangle under one of the best, but most rigid, coaches this league has ever seen in Phil Jackson.

With this new found freedom he has found himself feeling obligated to shoot the ball anytime he would get possession, even when he new he was doubled or in a poor position to get to the basket. This led to a ton of well contested poorly executed shots and an bucket of turnovers because of some his shortcomings.

In the first half of the season we saw almost all of Shannon Brown's weaknesses and virtually none of his strengths.

Weaknesses:

Poor ball-handler for position

Suffers from poor shot selection

Doesn't attack the rim

Not great at finding the open man.

Even with these major downsides he occasionally showed his abilities for brief moments. Well I can happily say that most of these problems have been left behind. With the exception of his ball handling he has cleaned up the other three problems, he is now arguably the best transition player we have as well as second best cutter, behind Chilly, in my opinion.

When he is playing well he reminds me a lot of Jason Richardson with better defensive sensibilities. His success will be our success down the stretch so it's good to see him hit his stride now. Let's take a look at his fantastic past 9 games!

Stats:

17.3 pts/gm

4.4 rbs/gm

2.2 ast/gm

So as you can see those numbers reflect what seems like a settled in more mature Shannon Brown then we saw early on in the year. If he continues this level of play this Suns team will resemble the Western Conference Finals team two years ago!

So cheers to you Shannon Brown!

Poll
Has Shannon turned the corner?

  174 votes | Results


Against all the odds, Grant Hill will return to the court for the Phoenix Suns Friday night — just two weeks after surgery to repair his torn meniscus. Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Hi everyone. I don't really remember how to begin a blog post since it's been like a year so I'll just say this - Trevor Ruffin, Ian Lockhart, and Kenny Battle. What do those 3 former Phoenix Suns have in common? Probably nothing.

Smooth transition

So did everyone notice that we're in the thick of a playoff race in the Western Conference? That's pretty fantastic, no? The regular season ends in 16 days and the Suns are going to play 9 games in that span of time. Things are as tightly packed as something which is by its nature very tightly packed.

9 of the Western Conferences Top 10 teams were in action last night and unfortunately for our beloved Phoenix Suns pretty much all of the relevant players in our part of the race reigned victorious. Here are last night's results:

Los Angeles Lakers 93, New Orleans Hornets 91: Kobe didn't play again but the Hornets are like really, really bad at basketball. Something called a Devin Ebanks started in the place of the guy who once scored 81 points in a game and the Lakers were carried by Pau Gasol's 25. NOLA actually led this game by 8 with 6:03 to play in the game but then forgot to keep scoring. The win helped LA create some separation from their Staples Center roommates for the Pacific Division crown.

Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Milwaukee Bucks 89: The Oklahoma City Preening We Refuse to Act Like We've Been There Beforers (rolls off the tounge nicely) opened up a 35-18 first quarter gash on Milwaukee and never looked back. Monta Ellis shot 3-12 for the Bucks and, in surprise news - Monta Ellis only shot 12 times in a game. Russell Westbrook led the winners with 26 points and probably puffed his chest out and did some sort of faux tough guy face on all of his 11 baskets.

Memphis Grizzlies 94, Los Angeles Clippers 85: Somebody woke the Grizzlies from their bear sleep and they've won 8 of their last 10 while tallying wins over Miami, Oklahoma City, the Clips, Lakers, and probably the 1986 Celtics. Marc Gasol led this balanced effort with 18 points and 5 other Grizzly professional basketball players scored in double figures. Blake Griffin had 19 points but probably no highlight dunks otherwise you'd have seen them 697,426 times by now.

Denver Nuggets 123, Golden State Warriors 84: My effort level for this paragraph will reflect that of the Golden State Warriors. Uh, Denver won by a lot, avenging a loss from last week. Danilo Gallinari came back but Al Harrington tore his meniscus probably. That's it.

Phoenix Suns 114, Minnesota Timberwolves 90: You all know what happened in this game and if you don't then just scroll down or click this link: Recap

Utah Jazz 91, San Antonio Spurs 84: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker all sat this one out. In not so breaking news, the Spurs aren't as good without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. "Former All-Star" Devin Harris (yes the quotes were necessary as unless you remember seeing it then it didn't happen) led the Jazz with 25.

Houston Rockets 94, Portland Trail Blazers 89: Anyone know who Portland's head coach is without googling it? Didn't think so. If you didn't figure it out from having Seth Pollack ram it down your throat repeatedly - Goran Dragic has developed quite nicely for the Rockets and he led them again last night with 22 points and 7 assists. Portland played both Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn last night, which would indicate to me that they weren't trying that hard.

So where does that leave everything? Here are your standings for April 10th, 2012:

Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1. Oklahoma City
42 15 .737 - 7-3 WON2
2. San Antonio
40 15 .727 1
9-1 LOST 1
3. LA Lakers
36 22
.621 6.5 6-4 WON 1
4. LA Clippers
34 23
.596 8
8-2 LOST 1
5. Memphis
33 23 .589 8.5 8-2 WON 3
6. Houston
32 25 .561 10 7-3 WON 4
7. Dallas
31 26 .544 11 4-6 LOST 2
8. Denver
31 26 .544 11
5-5 WON 1

- SUNS

30 27 .526 12 7-3 WON 2
- Utah
30 28 .517 12.5
4-6 WON 1

See what I was saying about things being tight? They totally are. Almost no room for error for any of the teams listed above. Tonight's schedule is pretty light:

April 10th Western Conference Games (that are relevant):

Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks: The Kings are 5-23 on the road this season, so barring a complete collapse from Dallas I'd expect to lose a half game to the Mavs tonight. On the plus side for Suns fans, this is the last game the human sacrifice that is the Sacramento Kings has with anyone in the 6th through 10th spots in the West.


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