The Phoenix Suns really need a win to stay within shouting distance of the playoffs, and they return their second best player tonight in Eric Bledsoe from a nearly three-month injury.

Ah, the crazy way the NBA season progresses. Welcome to the playoff chase.

Seven days ago, the Phoenix Suns were on the verge of dropping from a playoff seed if they'd lost to league-best Oklahoma City. But the Suns beat OKC while the Grizzlies and Mavericks lost to bump the Suns back to 7th in the race. Yet, six days later the Suns have dropped to 9th thanks to back-to-back losses coupled with wins by their competition.

As fast as they can drop, the Suns can jump right back into contention with some wins against the East in the coming weeks. While most of the games are on the road, the Suns do play 9 of their next 10 against Eastern Conference foes not named Indiana or Miami. The games are winnable, so coming out with a winning record over the next 10 games is imperative if the Suns hope to make the playoffs.

The return of Eric Bledsoe should help. The Suns are 12-6 with him and Goran Dragic starting and finishing the same game. They are 16-8 overall with Bledsoe in the lineup. Without Bledsoe, the Suns are only 20-19 on the season. Bledsoe helps on both offense and defense, and could be the deciding factor of the Suns playoff push.

The Opponent

After winning 6 straight games in February to give their fans some hope of making the playoffs in the terrible Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers have now lost 7 of 9 and sit at 24-40 despite adding Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes without giving up any of their young talent in the process.

It's quite possible that Mike Brown just isn't the right coach for this team. They are one of the league's youngest, yet play at a slow-ish pace (21st). They added a strong veteran in Luol Deng and their coach is a defensive-minded tactician, yet they deploy one of the league's worst defenses (20th overall).

The Cavs have a strong starting lineup, but they just have not meshed well this season. Let's hope that failure to launch continues at least one more game.

The Suns

Well, a look at the Bright Side says "at least they didn't go 0-4 in that tough stretch". Given that the Suns are displaying the WORST defense in the entire league over the past 7 games, it's amazing they have even been close at all.

The Matadors have allowed a league-worst 115.4 points per 100 possessions over the last 7, including the opponent hitting better than 50% of their shots in each and every one of those games (average = league worst 53.1% allowed). Prior to that 7-game stretch, the Suns had allowed the 9th lowest opponent field goal percentage (45.4%).

The Suns used to be a top-5 defense in opponent three-point field goal % (allowing just a 33% conversion rate), but the last 7 games have seen the Suns allow better than the 41% they allowed a year ago as the worst in the league (41.7% allowed in 7 games is 4th worst in the league over that stretch).

So how have the Suns even sniffed at a 3-4 record in that 7 games? By playing the league's 3rd best offense (112.9 points per 100 possessions) and somehow being 6th in rebounding over that stretch of 7 games (52.9% of all rebounds). The Suns are rebounding the available misses better than usual, they just can't stop the initial shot any more.

The Stats

Screen_shot_2014-03-12_at_6

The Lineups

Screen_shot_2014-03-12_at_6

With P.J. Tucker suspended and Suns coach Hornacek previously saying he'd bring Bledsoe off the bench for at least a game or two, my guess is that Marcus Morris gets his first start of the year tonight for the Suns. Plumlee returned from injury and started last game (12 points, 9 rebounds), so expect the usual lineup with the exception of Mook.

The Key Matchup

It's the RETURN OF ERIC BLEDSOE tonight, so of course the key matchup will be Kyrie Irving against the Suns Slash Brothers of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

We might even see some Slash Brothers against the PG duo of Irving and Jarrett in a battle of the two-PG lineups. Ish Smith will rotate in as well.

The Prediction

The Suns really need this win, and the Cavaliers might just be the right foil at the right time.

Suns by 10.

Tucker threw the elbow to the throat. Now he gets to miss a game.

Maybe I'm a homer but it sure looked like Griffin swung at Tucker too.

Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker has been suspended one game without pay for elbowing Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin in the chin. See the play above.

The incident occurred with 5:28 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 112-105 win over the Suns on Monday, March 10, at Staples Center.

Tucker will serve his suspension on Wednesday, March 12, when the Suns host the Cleveland Cavaliers at US Airways Center.

Tucker threw the elbow to the throat. Now he gets to miss a game.

Maybe I'm a homer but it sure looked like Griffin swung at Tucker too.

Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker has been suspended one game without pay for elbowing Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin in the chin. See the play above.

The incident occurred with 5:28 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 112-105 win over the Suns on Monday, March 10, at Staples Center.

Tucker will serve his suspension on Wednesday, March 12, when the Suns host the Cleveland Cavaliers at US Airways Center.

When the Phoenix Suns welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to town Wednesday evening, they’ll do so a bit short-handed. While guard Eric Bledsoe will return to the hardwood after a 33-game hiatus,...

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

The Suns got knocked down... Can they get back up again?

Is this where the team was supposed to be anyway? Did the media and fans create a self-fulfilling prophecy that took 63 games to finally come to fruition? After 62 consecutive games of mouth watering playoff action the Phoenix Suns (36-27) find themselves in uncharted territory, this season, with their backs against the wall and in the rear view mirror of eight other Western Conference teams...

Game Recaps

vs. Los Angeles Clippers - L (104-96) Full Recap

vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - W (128-122) Full Recap

@ Golden State Warriors - L (113-107) Full Recap

@ Los Angeles Clippers - L (112-105) Full Recap

All season, at least at the beginning, everyone that talked Suns Basketball have been fixated on the lottery. Now they have just that. The Memphis Grizzlies have leapfrogged the Suns for now and are in the playoffs as of today.

Does that mean the Suns are down and out?

Not necessarily. They are down for the moment, but they have a lot of positives in the very near future to lean on during this tough time. Two straight losses to quality playoff teams out west hurts them right now, but the return of Eric Bledsoe this week brings hope as does their next stretch of games that includes 8/11 opponents either at or below .500 right now.

Losing three out of four games to three different teams that are all solidly in the playoffs right now is nothing to be ashamed of. They played it tough and close in all three losses and easily could have gone 3-1 if it was not for a few horrid third quarters...

Key Stat

-40

The Suns were outscored 35-75 in the third quarter in losses to the Clippers and Warriors last week. In both games the Suns held substantial leads (up 11 on the Clippers at the half) only to squander them after the intermission. On the season the Suns worst scoring offense comes in the third quarter where they average 25.3 points per game. That is good for 14th in the NBA according to Team Rankings and the only non-Top 6 in the league scoring quarter for the Suns this season.

Quote of the Week

"It was a great win for us against the number one team in the West, them and San Antonio, one of the two. We needed this win, it's a much needed win. They came out strong in the second half, in the third quarter and I was just feeling it, man. Guys were finding me in transition, finding me off screens, and I was just being really aggressive." -- Gerald Green on his big night

2014 NBA Draft Update

Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, with one lottery pick, their own. A slight change of pace from pre-season projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:

Minnesota Timberwolves (31-31) -- No. 13 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) James Young

Phoenix Suns (36-27) -- No. 14 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Sam Dekker, Sophomore Forward Wisconsin

Washington Wizards (33-30) -- No. 18 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Clint Capela, Swiss Forward

Indiana Pacers (46-17) -- No. 28 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Chris Walker, Freshman Forward, Florida

Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.

News & Notes

  • Gerald Green scored a career-high 41 points in a win over the Thunder
  • Eric Bledsoe was announced to return to action between the 10th-12th

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, March 12th vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-40)

Friday, March 14th @ Boston Celtics (22-41)

Sunday, March 16th @ Toronto Raptors (35-26)

Well, that cast of opponents looks a lot softer than the week before. What do ya say?

This is the Suns time to regain some momentum and get back on track with their winning ways. The Cavaliers and Celtics are both struggling, going a combined 6-14 in their last 20 games combined. This season the Suns are 2-0 against both the Cavaliers and the Celtics. Nice opportunity to get back some in the win column. The Raptors have clearly been a better team since the Rudy Gay Trade as DeMarr DeRozan has become a legitimate All-Star level player on a night-to-night basis for them. That will be a unique challenge across the northern border.

Prediction: Going out on a limb and saying the Suns use last week as motivation, rise above with Eric Bledsoe on board, and run the pee-wee gauntlet 3-0 this week...

Page 849 of 2079

849

Web Links

Sponsored Ads