We know how you feel, Stan!

The NBA Playoffs are on. Just like a good pennant race in baseball, the Phoenix Suns are locked in a playoff-type battle each night as they chase the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets and try to hold off the trailing Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

On Sunday, the Jazz and Rockets rested while the Nuggets picked up a win over the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard missed this game due to a back injury suffered when the Mavericks' Brendan Haywood (allegedly) punched him a few times. A butterfly across the world flaps its wings ...

The Rockets helped out the Suns, losing a close one at home against the Pacers -- the same Pacers team that the Suns recently beat on the road. Ha!

That leaves the Suns tied with the Jazz with 26 losses and two games behind Denver with KEY head-to-head games coming against those teams Wednesday and Friday. BIG GAMES.

Here's a look at the standings and key games.

Wc_standings_040212_medium

Nuggets at Magic recap: Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried come up big in win - Denver Stiffs
It's hard to complain about a big win on the road. It doesn't happen that often, and the Nuggets have an over .500 road record at 14-12. Nice eh? Yet, this game was so odd (from the beginning with Dwight Howard not playing) that you come away feeling a big confused and conflicted.

Media Row Report: Blazers 119, Timberwolves 106 - Blazer's Edge
The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 119-106, at the Rose Garden on Sunday night, improving their record to 25-28 on the season. If there's one thing we can do in Portland it's identity a basketball team that has had its soul removed by injuries. The Minnesota Timberwolves are such a team.

Rockets Fall In Barnburner As Pacers Squeeze Out 104-102 Victory - The Dream Shake
The Rockets found themselves in another barnburner at home with the Indiana Pacers, and after a damn good effort throughout the first four quarters, they suddenly kept missing open shots in overtime and got obliterated on the boards. And that's going to kill you, obviously.

Tuesday's key games for the Western Conference Playoff Race:

The Houston Rockets (28-25) face the Chicago Bulls on the road. That's a tough one for them. The game will be on NBA TV. Utah is on the road in Portland on Tuesday as well. We'll see if Rip City can do Phoenix a favor. The Clippers are at the Mavericks, but barring a COMPLETE collapse, both of those teams are in.

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So who is this Rick Celibrini (sp?) Whoever he is, he does magical things to Steve Nash. I'm picturing this guy with a red phone in his home, awaiting the inevitable Spring call from Steve Nash. I think we all owe this guy and Aaron Nelson some thanks for keeping the boys in good playing condition.

It's a beautiful thing waking up Monday morning knowing the Phoenix Suns won the night before. And to boot, they're now 1.5 back of the 8th seed. Spring is beautiful!

There were many more beautiful things found in the highlights below: Nash taking on 4 Hornets on a break, the pretty feed to Gortat for a dunk, Robin Lopez playing quality basketball, Shannon Brown hitting from beyond the arc and elsewhere, and hell man, check it out yourself.

4-1-12 Phoenix Suns Vs New Orleans Hornets Full Game Highlights HD (via TekTv9999)

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PHOENIX — With memories of home losses to the Nets, Cavs, Raptors, Warriors and of course these very same New Orleans Hornets fresh in their minds, the Suns knew they absolutely have to take...

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Channing Frye played a solid all-around game tonight with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.

In a playoff chase with two teams to pass for a spot in the post-season, there is little room for error, and the Suns did the necessary and expected tonight, defeating the shorthanded New Orleans Hornets 92-75.

The Suns were led by Jared Dudley's 21 points and 7 rebounds, Shannon Brown chipped in 16, Steve Nash dished 14 assists and the Suns held a huge edge in FTs, hitting 19-21 to only 7-9 for the Hornets.

The Hornets were led by Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith, who scored 14 apiece, but Suns starters held a huge advantage over Hornets starters, and the Suns led by as many as 21 as they pulled away in the third quarter.

This was a Hornets team playing its fifth and final game of an eight day road trip, and they were missing Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, although Chris Kaman and Gustavo Ayon did return for New Orleans, scoring 8 and 4, respectively.

Tonight's game went as expected. The Suns got the win they needed. It wasn't very pretty and Grant Hill's defense wasn't missed because the Hornets don't have the scorers to take advantage. To their credit, the Hornets don't look like a team that's tanking. They're continuing to play hard, even as their missing players and fatigue from this road trip make winning nearly impossible.

For the Suns, they took care of their business with a balanced offensive effort and held the punchless Hornets to only 75 points. Ho hum, and it was against the worst team in the West at home, but it counts as one in the W column just the same, and a Houston Rockets loss to he Pacers lifts the Suns to only 1 1/2 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Bullet-worthy observations:

  • Channing Frye played another one of those games where his 3-point shot wasn't falling (0-4) and he made a contribution in other ways, leading the Suns in rebounding and swatting their only two blocked shots. Occasionally, Frye looks like more of a conventional PF than his reputation as a one-dimensional bomber indicates, and that was the case tonight. The Suns won the battle in the paint, and Frye was a big reason.
  • Another Suns big man who helped win the paint was Robin Lopez, who scored 10 points in the first half to help stabilize things when the rest of the bench was again shaky. Though held scoreless in the second half, Lopez notched his second consecutive double-figure scoring outing.
  • After a rough start as a member of the Suns, Shannon Brown has become a solid player and is taking advantage of his opportunity to start with Grant Hill's injury. He had 16 points on 6-11 shooting tonight, and continues to look more comfortable, taking fewer bad shots and adopting the Suns style of sharing the ball. At the right price and of course depending upon what other moves the Suns make, keeping Brown around might not be such a bad idea.
  • Josh Childress got some decent run with 19 minutes, and had mixed results. He scored his first three points on a buzzer-beating 3 to end the third quarter and added 6 rebounds, but he was also part of the bench crew that seemed to be doing all it could to make this game interesting after the starters built the lead. I still think he'd fit better with the starting unit, but as long as Brown keeps delivering there, that's not likely to happen.
  • If you get the chance, check out the Grant Hill feature on "Oprah's Master Class". It aired at 7PM PDT tonight on the OWN channel (I didn't know it existed before tonight) and is an autobiographical interview with Hill in which he discusses his family, upbringing and lessons learned in his life. I've seen about half of it now in the background as I'm writing this and highly recommend it. It's certainly easy to be a Grant Hill fan. The word "classy" constantly comes to mind, and the league could use more like him.

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