Jazzy

The playoff race in the NBA Western Conference is ridiculous. It is insane how tightly these teams are packed together with nine (!) teams within five games of each other ranging from the fourth-seed Clippers to the 12th-seeded Trail Blazers.

With roughly 17 games left and a schedule that heavily favors head-to-head play, we are in for a while wild ride.

There's not a game left on the schedule for the Suns that doesn't matter. It's going to be like the final month of a pennant race in baseball which is awesome.

In other words, the playoffs have already started.

That's pretty much the story for all the West and that means every night key teams are going to be playing each other so the standings can shift quickly. Here's quick look at the most recent action and an update on the standings:

Updated Western Conference Standings Via NBA.com:

Wc_standings_032612_medium

Key Games Sunday, March 25:

- Utah Jazz (7) LOST to Atlanta Hawks, 133-139 in 4OT(!)

Jazz Vs. Hawks Post Game Thread -- 20 extra minutes of prolonged failure! - SLC Dunk
What a crazy game. All of our starters played AT LEAST 50 minutes tonight. Derrick Favors played 19. Alec Burks played 21. Enes Kanter played 11...All of that LOOKS GREAT . . . . if they do that in a 48 minute game.

The Jazz are one team the Suns will need to pass at some point. They play once in early April and once in the final week of the season -- both on the road.

- Denver Nuggets (9) LOST to Minnesota Timberwolves (11), 100-117

Nuggets at Timberwolves recap: Denver defense defenseless in Minnesota - Denver Stiffs
For the third time in four games the Nuggets lose by 17 points or more.

It's hard to imagine the Nuggets falling out of the playoffs but with a few injuries and a trade to deal with, it's possible they could be a lottery team instead of a playoff team. Suns play the Nuggets twice more, once on the road and once at home.

- Memphis Grizzlies (6) BEAT Los Angeles Lakers (3), 102-96

Grizzlies 102 - Lakers 96: Zach Randolph and the Bench Lead the Way - Straight Outta Vancouver
First, let me say that in the Grizzlies 102-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night, there were moments where I looked at this team and legitimately thought, "We can win the title this year."

Memphis is a dangerous team with Zach Randolph now back on the floor. The Suns face them one more time on the road.

- Oklahoma City Thunder (1) BEAT Miami Heat, 103-87

Suns get the Thunder one more time (at home) this year. They looked good beating Miami on Sunday.

- San Antonio Spurs (2) BEAT Philadelphia 76ers, 93-76

The Spurs are rolling deep which is not so much good news for the Suns since they play three more times, starting Tuesday.

- Portland Trail Blazers (12) BEAT Golden State Warriors (13), 90-87

These two teams seem to be lottery bound, but nothing is impossible in the West. Don't bury them yet.

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Marcin Gortat scored the first 10 points of the game and Markieff Morris had a career-high 22 points as the Phoenix Suns dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83 Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans...

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Marcin Gortat scored the first 10 points of the game and Markieff Morris had a career-high 22 points as the Phoenix Suns dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83 Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans...

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Jared was pumped up today! Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Just what the Suns needed! A nice, strong win to even their road trip at 2-2 and earn a 25-24 season record (above .500!), the best possible outcome after the Florida Debacle. The Suns scored the game's first 12 points, led by 8 after 1 period, 19 after 2, 21 after 3 and won by a cool 25. The game was never in doubt.

Markieff Morris set a career high with 22 points to go with 5 rebounds and a block. Shannon Brown with 16 points to go with 3 rebounds, a steal and a block. Sebastian Telfair had 7 points and 6 huge, smooth-as-silk assists. The starters did not have to play much, led by Marcin Gortat's 30 minutes in which he scored 22 (the recipient of many of Steve Nash's 13 assists) and pulled down 8 rebounds.

The Cavaliers played bad today, and the Suns played well. The Suns leaders were bench players, and the game was a 108-83 blowout.

Read on for game notes:

This was a nice, fun game to watch for Suns fans. Everything the Suns tried, they succeeded at. The bench looked really good. Rookie Markieff Morris played better than his higher-drafted counterpart Tristan Thompson by a mile. Gortat looked energized again. Shannon Brown looks like he knows what he's doing, as does Sebastian Telfair.

First quarter

  • Gortat came to play! The game started with his own personal 10-0 run on dunks and layups, most of them uncontested.
  • Cleveland's interior defense is bad. And the Suns took advantage of it early.
  • It helps that Cleveland has no centers on their roster. Tristan Thompson - who looked really clueless on offense and defense - and Samardo Samuels are their biggest players.
  • Suns got out to 12-0, then 18-6, then 23-10 leads before Cleveland woke up.
  • The Cavs woke up thanks to some scrappy play from their bench - Luke Walton (I hate that guy), Omri Casspi, Manny Harris and Donald Neal all made a difference. For a while.
Second Quarter
  • Cleveland cut the lead to 31-29, then 33-31
  • Then the Suns bench decided to make a difference when Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair decided to go on their own personal 9-0 run.
  • Markieff Morris had 13 points in his first 10 minutes of play, most of it at the rim. Note that he was playing against 2 rookies taken ahead of him in the draft, especially Tristan Thompson.
  • Speaking of shots at the rim, someone has to get it to the big men, and Sebastian Telfair is getting much, much better. He was confident and made some nice setup passes we haven't seen from anyone but than Steve Nash in a while.
  • Plus he hustles, taking balls away from the opposition (steals, rebounds, loose balls) on a regular basis
  • The lead got back to 13 pretty quickly while Morris deservedly stayed on the floor with the starters
  • Cleveland's arena was so quiet at one point that I clearly heard one small child screaming 'de-FENSE' above all others when the Suns were on offense, right after being loudest during a Suns free throw. So cute. :)
  • Nash didn't even take a shot until 30 seconds to go in the half.
  • 59-38 at half as Suns finish on 12-2 run. Shannon Brown is becoming a nice player for the Suns.
Third Quarter
  • Hope Suns don't take the second half off, mentally
  • Cavs start second half scoring on 3 straight possessions
  • There's the shot by Steve, and the steal by Hill. Thanks.
  • Cavs packing the paint now and playing much harder
  • Grant tweaked his knee, out with ice on it. Now Suns defense is going to suffer.
  • Irving picks Nash's pocket, Suns getting sloppy
  • Suns defense is looking slow. Worried this would happen. Suns trying to win without playing defense.
  • Irving taking over now. Uh oh. Lead "down" to 15.
  • Suns trying just to solve their problems by scoring. Forget the other end.
  • Shannon Brown playing well! 12 points in 12 minutes.
  • Okay, back up to 23. Clevelanders are shaking their heads.
  • Now, 15 in 13 minutes for Shannon Brown!
  • The big Cavs run is suddenly over. Game settling back down to bad Cavs shots and good Suns shots. Don't think the Suns had any dunks that quarter, after 7 in the first half. Good on Cleveland to pack the paint. Unfortunately for them, the Suns made jump shots.
  • You know what I don't see any more? Shannon Brown taking the pass, hesitating, dribbling around inside an invisible 3-foot box and then taking an unnecessarily contested jumper. Haven't seen that in a while, as a matter of fact.
  • haha then he does just that with the shot clock winding down. Oh well. I spent too much time writing that prior comment a few minutes ago to delete it. It stays.
Fourth Quarter
  • Morris still looking lively on that drive to the rim, and is Telfair on his. Second half looks like reprisal of the first half, led by Telfair and Morris.
  • This game could get away from the Cavs now, even more than it already is, if they don't get some turnovers
  • and there's a Cavs steal. Suns lead down to 23
  • Telfair just made his second successful drive to the hoop of the 4th quarter (4 points on 2 drives). Not sure if he's had a game this year yet with 2 successful drives in the same game? Can't remember any.
  • Robin got lucky there on his "patented" two-second spin move into the lane with the ball out at waist level. Nearly stripped but the foul was called.
  • Uh oh. Walton and Casspi are back. Seem to always play well against the Suns.
  • Morris for another three! 18 points now.
  • Suns defense remains soft. Tough to keep up the intensity when you're up by 25.
  • Robin is trying too hard on offense. Just pass the ball back out!
  • Stop giving it to Robin on offense!
  • There you go. Give it to Markieff. 2 quick buckets and a career high!
  • And at this point, the game is over. Just a matter of playing out the last few minutes.


No need for any of these in the first half. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wish all teams played the Suns like the Cavs did in the first half!


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