What's that in his eyes?  Fire?  Passion? The reflection of a unicorn? Maybe it's determination.  Keep an eye on those Wolves.  Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

Well ... we all knew this stretch of games would be tough. But the bad start to the season has the Suns in a tight spot where every game really does matter. We started yesterday 1.5 games back of the 9th ... er 8th ... er 7th spot, and with the loss to the Clips last night we slid to two full games back.

But the good news is that both Utah and Denver lost last night. That continues to give the Suns hope that they can still catch up if they can somehow end their current funky skid and remember how they were playing just a week or so ago. Putting the fate of your playoff appearance in the hands of other teams is not the most enjoyable way to make the playoffs -- we all know that from experience.

Updated Western Conference Standings Via NBA.com:

Kucy_medium

Key Games Thursday, March 28:

- Denver Nuggets (9) LOST to the Toronto Raptors, 96-105

Nuggets at Raptors recap: Denver falls flat in fourth, lose in Toronto

There is a saying by mothers out there that goes, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Well, the Nuggets lose to the Raptors 105-96 and get outscored from the 1:46 mark in the 3rd quarter to the game's end 26-11. The Nuggets missed 15 straight shots in the fourth quarter and lose again in embarrassing fashion to a team that is supposed to be inferior, on paper.

Very good news for the Suns - the Denver Nuggets are our first target to surpass.

- Minnesota Timberwolves (11) BEAT Charlotte Bobcats, 88-83

A Post-Feral, Nearly-Domesticated Report Card. Bobcats 3/28

I have to admit that I had misgivings about this game and whether we had enough healthy bodies to be competitive with the Bobcats. They have a lousy record, but are not mincemeat as they proved tonight. Once they get a bit more talent and a few years of experience, they can be serious competition for anyone! Somehow another spectacular game from the best power forward in the NBA this year, coupled with a point guard had a really solid game, a reserve forward who had a good game, and not much else was enough tonight. Let's hope Beas and Pek and Barea can give us some minutes here soon, the Misfit Toys are looking worse for the wear....

Keep an eye on the T-Wolves ... that Kevin Love is a bad man.

- Utah Jazz (7) LOST to the Boston Celtics, 82-94

Jazz Vs. Celtics Post Game Thread: Utah falls 82-94, and Kevin Garnett is still kinda mean

Anyway, Jazz were up by one, then the Ghosts of Boston Garden got all influential, and before you knew it the Jazz were down. And down big. Our boys fought back, but missed free throws and missed opportunities only succeeded in frustrating our players and fans -- and did not help the Jazz leave town with a win.

Kevin Garnett is a _________ Please fill in the blank/s in the comment section ...

- San Antonio Spurs (2) BEAT the Sacramento Kings, 117-112

Eff the Spurs. They still roll.

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(SB Nation Arizona, Ernie Pomim) Many folks have begun to speculate what Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash's next move will be in his professional basketball career, to keep on keeping on or to hang 'em up as one of the legends to play the game. Nash joined the Dan Patrick Show recently to discuss such matters, as well as all the trade deadline rumors. Make the jump to see for yourself.

Nash noted that despite all the hooplah that surrounded him at the deadline, this offseason could be more eventful, but would like to stick around if possible:

"I could be back for sure," Nash said, "but that will be more interesting than the trade deadline."

Nash noted the importance of the Suns to improve the pieces around him to become a contender once again. He also mentioned he hasn't talked to Dirk Nowitzki about going to Dallas but he'd certainly listen if the Miami Heat called.

Nash seems to think the Suns are trying to get better:

Per Paul Coro on Twitter:

Nash on Dan Patrick: "I am not going to come back to the Suns... if they're not looking to upgrade the roster seriously & I think they are."

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) March 29, 2012

It certainly looks like Phoenix will have some work to do if they want to woo Nash enough to remain with the Suns as the aging guard wants the taste of winning back on his lips before he hangs them up for good. Hopefully they can give him that.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 03/29/12 2:15 PM MST ]

The full quotes and link to the audio:

azcentral.com blogs - Coro's Orange Slices - PaulCoro - Nash: won't stay if Suns don't 'upgrade' roster

"I definitely do want to win," Nash told Patrick. "I'm not going to come back to the Suns if there isn't an improvement, if they're not ambitious and they're not looking to upgrade the roster seriously. And I think they are. They'll have a lot of flexibility in free agency. They'll also have been standing pat in many ways so they could do some things this summer. I think they'll become a definite possiblity for me. I do want to win. I do want to consider all my options."

Listen to Patrick's entire interview of Nash here.

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It's hard for any Suns fan not to miss this sight.

Few issues have generated as much heated discussion among Suns fans as the question of whether letting sure-fire future Ring of Honor inductee Amar'e Stoudemire leave for the Knicks without offering a fully guaranteed contract for the maximum salary and max amount of years was a wise decision.

The reason given by the Suns not to fully guarantee the final two years of a five-year contract offered to Stoudemire was that the contract was uninsurable due to microfracture surgery that had been performed on his knee in 2005. This didn't deter the deep-pocketed Knicks from signing Stoudemire to a fully guaranteed 5 yr/$100 million contract in July of 2010, a contract that is now in its second year.

With one mostly effective season from Stoudemire that ended in playoff disappointment for the Knicks (getting swept out of the first round by the Celtics as he suffered a back injury and was unproductive in the series) under his belt in New York, Stoudemire is now out at least 2-4 weeks with a bulging disc. If the Knicks and he are fortunate, he'll be back for the final two weeks of the season as the team pushes for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

That makes one season Stoudemire ended with an injured back and another that might end the same way. Though his knee was the Suns primary area of concern, other injuries have caused Stoudemire not to be a player worthy of maximum salary, let alone for another three years.

It was almost exactly two years ago that Suns center Robin Lopez was diagnosed with a bulging disc, and Lopez didn't regain all of his explosiveness for about a year after that. Every injury is different, but if Stoudemire were still a member of the Suns, with this injury and his current salary commitment, fans would be freaking out at the possibility that the 29-year-old, 10th year pro Stoudemire might never be the same player again, and that the team would be on the hook to pay him like a franchise player when he was merely a shell of his former self.

Not that things have gone swimmingly for the Suns since Stoudemire's departure, but the franchise's current situation is preferable to that, isn't it?

It is a unique situation when a conference finalist team sees a multiple time All-Star player such as Stoudemire leave as a free agent. How are fans to react? Bitterly towards the player for leaving the team? Bitterly towards the organization for not taking appropriate steps to keep him? We've seen plenty of each among Suns fans, but I've always thought that the decisions made by both Stoudemire and team management were defensible.

For Stoudemire to accept the Suns' contract offer rather than the Knicks' offer would have meant that he was risking an amount in the $45M range of cold, hard cash if he were to get injured on the job, through no fault of his own, and couldn't play for significant portions of those last two seasons. Even for a person who has made boatloads of money in his career and was going to make at least $55M more, it's hard to imagine leaving $45M guaranteed salary on the table.

From the franchise's standpoint, it also comes back to that $45M. If Stoudemire was not able to play for those last two seasons, for whatever reason, the Suns would be committed to pay him in full and take the cap hit (assuming they did not amnesty him; the payment of the salary would happen regardless), crippling the team's chances to compete in those seasons.

To say that Stoudemire should have made that sacrifice, or Sarver should have, well, that's easy to say when it's somebody else's money we are talking about. Would you be willing to take a comparable risk with your own money? For me, if I was Stoudemire or Sarver, I would probably have done exactly what each of them did. There is no villain here, just circumstances.

So, what are fans to do? Cheer for Stoudemire as a Knick, for all the good times he gave us as fans? Hope for him to get injured and/or fail because it will justify the actions of the team in not guaranteeing him all that money?

It's a no-win situation. Seeing Stoudemire succeed for the full five years of his contract would mean that our favorite team gave up one of its best players ever for no good reason. Ouch. And cheer for the Knicks? Never. But wanting to see Stoudemire get injured or otherwise fail ... that is just spiteful and classless.

The best approach is to let bygones be bygones and not continue to dissect a decision that was made nearly two years ago, but unfortunately there's little hope of that happening among emotional fans.

How about this: Amar'e supporters acknowledge that Suns management had completely valid reasons not to fully guarantee a max contract for him, and those who think Amar'e betrayed the team acknowledge that they probably wouldn't have sacrificed $45M if given the choice either. There's no reason for bitterness towards either party.

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The Phoenix Suns had previously been able to frustrate Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin by using physical, rim-protecting defense to keep the athletic All-Star at bay. At least, it was...

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The Clippers closed out the game and kept it out of reach for the Suns tonight.

Tonight, the Phoenix Suns took on the Los Angeles Clippers looking for their third win in a row against the Clippers this season and their fifth consecutive win against them overall. The game started out well for the Suns who jumped out to an early first quarter lead, mainly behind the scoring and rebounding of Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye.

However, once the second quarter started and the bench unit came in things went downhill fast as the Suns only scored 14 points in the second quarter while the bench went scoreless for over six minutes. The starters came back in and eventually made some shots, but the damage had been done and the lead had been lost as the Clippers went into the half up 44-41.

The second half didn't go much better for the Suns as they fell behind by 10 points in the third quarter due to some hot shooting by Caron Butler and Randy Foye. Blake Griffin also had a couple of and-ones and the Suns just couldn't seem to find a rhythm.

The fourth quarter saw some improved play from the bench, namely with Robin Lopez grabbing some offensive rebounds and getting to the line. But it still wasn't enough as the Clippers were able to hold their lead; even after Suns' head coach Alvin Gentry unsuccessfully went to the zone hoping to stop the Clippers the way they did the last time they faced them.

Steve Nash had 15 assists but went scoreless tonight from the field missing all four of his shots and only scoring one point off a technical free throw ... this was likely due to the back issues he was dealing with since last night's game against the San Antonio Spurs. Grant Hill sat out this game with a sore right knee, and his defensive presence was also missed tonight as the Suns just couldn't seem to stop Caron Butler and Randy Foye from scoring in the first half. Marcin Gortat had a good game scoring 23 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, and Channing Frye also contributed nicely with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

For the Clippers it was the Blake Griffin show as he scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Chris Paul also had a great game scoring 15 points and dishing 15 assists as well. DeAndre Jordan hit an impressive 7-8 free throws and ended up with 13 points to go with his 6 rebounds, and Caron Butler contributed nicely with his 14 points as well. The Clippers just out-hustled, out-rebounded and out-scored the Suns tonight ... they deserved this win.

Full recap coming tomorrow morning. This one hurt, but the Suns are still firmly in the playoff race after getting some help when the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets also both lost tonight.

Hang in there Suns fans ... Continue on after the jump for the Game Notes.

Game Notes

First Quarter:

Suns without Grant Hill again because of right knee inflammation and also without Markieff Morris out with a cold.

Suns starting Shannon Brown in place of Hill again…let’s hope for another 32 points!

Nice lob break-up by Brown that led to transition dunk for Gortat

Griffin starts out hitting his first two shots…hope that isn’t a bad omen

Dudley hits his first shot and matches his scoring total from yesterday

Frye with a nice offensive rebound and dunk!

Gortat with a nice layup and-1

Frye with a block…playing big man basketball

Dudley hits his second shot…jumper looking smooth for Dudz.

Brown with a circus type layup high off the glass…30 more to go!

Gortat with a great adjustment on a left hand lay-up…Suns up early 15-8 halfway through the first quarter

Clippers now with 7 unanswered points to tie it up…Suns have to keep their foot on the gas.

Frye immediately answers with a 3 to take back the lead

Griffin grabs a rebound off Dudley’s missed three but it was still in the air above the rim when he did it…no goaltending call though.

Suns still holding onto the lead, just barely, now up 20-19

Frye with another 3…that’s his second from long range plus a dunk

Gortat wasn’t comfortable taking that 13 footer from the side…but he drained it

Telfair and Lopez in for Nash and Gortat now

Lopez immediately drives to the rim and finishes with a nice reverse lay-up

Suns lead 27-24 at the end of the 1st quarter. Suns shooting 44%, Clippers 50%. Suns with 12rbs, Clippers with 13rbs. Suns with 2 TO’s, Clippers with 5 TO’s. Gortat leading the Suns with 11 points, Blake Griffin leading the Clippers with 12 points.

Second Quarter:

The Full bench unit is in for the Suns to start the 2nd quarter…Telfair, Price, Redd, Warrick, and Lopez

Warrick gets to the line and hits both free throws

Three bad possessions after that, two of which lead to easy buckets for the Clippers, and then a foul on Deandre Jordan. Timeout…I wonder if Gentry will change the lineup

Gentry sticks with the same unit after the timeout. Deandre Jordan misses his 2nd free throw but the Clippers get the offensive rebound. The Clippers then get two more offensive rebounds and then get the ball again as it goes out of bounds…that’s the fourth chance at a basket. Gentry can’t be happy

Redd stops the bleeding by getting to the line. Glad to see him use his veteran smarts to get some points.

Still, bench just not in rhythm right now…Gentry has got to be close to making a change

Suns have not scored a field goal yet in the 2nd quarter…Clippers with a four point lead 35-31 midway through.

At this point, why not try Josh Childress?

Gentry putting the starters back in…whew

Frye continues the missing streak with a missed three…that’s now 11 missed shots in a row for the Suns

Gortat missed reverse lay-up…12 misses in a row now

Frye gets to the line and hits both free throws

Dudley gets fouled and argues his way into shooting two free throws although he clearly wasn’t in a shooting motion when it happened. Way to go JD! Dudley missed both free throws…ball doesn’t lie I guess

Finally a field goal! Dudley with a layup that is blocked by Deandre Jordan for a goaltend…

Shannon Brown gets to the line after being fouled behind the arc…Brown hits 1 of 3 but the Suns get the offensive rebound and then Brown hits a 3!

Gortat with an offensive rebound and a nice turnaround jumper…Now has 13 points

Gortat picked up his third personal foul and freturns to the bench

Brown runs down a fast breaking Deandre Jordan and fouls him to make him earn it…Good strategy for a player that shoots 49% Jordan makes both of them though and now has made 7-8 for the night so far

Clippers lead 43-41 at the end of the 1st half. Suns shooting 36%, Clippers 41%. Suns with 26rbs, Clippers with 30rbs. Suns with 5 TO’s, Clippers with 8 TO’s. Gortat leading the Suns with 13 points, Blake Griffin still leading the Clippers with 12 points.

Third Quarter:

The Suns scored only 14 points in the second quarter, let’s hope the Suns get out to a better start in the third.

Frye hits a jumper to start off the Suns

Caron Butler answers back with a three

Caron Buftler then makes a nice move to create his shot and hits a nice jumper for another 2.

Gentry calls timeout early…he must see something he doesn’t like out there…besides the obvious, that is

Brown with a nice turnaround jumper

Frye going to work on D now…Good help defense on a driving Butler and then plays good D on Griffin causing him to travel

Gortat gets to the line and hits both free throws…now has 19 so far. Suns and clippers now tied at 53-53 midway through the third

Nice off-balance jumper from Frye, he now has 14 points and 7 rebounds

Foye answers back with a three

Redd answers his answer back with a three of his own

Caron Butler really doing his part to help the Clippers…he’s become a factor now with 14 points…Foye is also heating up now with 9 and hasn’t missed a shot yet

Telfair and Lopez are in now for Nash and Gortat

Blake Griffin fouled hard by Lopez at the rim but still hits the shot and-1

Suns going cold again…now just 4-19 from beyond the arc

Nice strong move by Lopez for a basket at the rim

Clippers pulling ahead now…up by 10 near the end of the third

Clippers lead 74-64 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Suns shooting 39%, Clippers 46%. Suns with 34rbs, Clippers with 49rbs. Suns with 6 TO’s, Clippers with 12 TO’s. Gortat leading the Suns with 21 points, Blake Griffin leading the Clippers with 19 points.

Fourth Quarter:

Suns defense has really suffered these last two nights without Grant Hill…Even though the Clippers have been missing a fair amount of shots, most of them were still good looks.

Suns bench in to start the fourth quarter…The bench has to play well if the Suns are going to have a chance to come back and get a win

Frye missed a three but Lopez gets the offensive rebound and gets fouled…Robin hits both free throws

Frye goes out and Warrick comes in for him…let’s hope he plays better this time around

Chris Paul having a nice night as he knocks down another jumper…now has 13

Lopez grabs another offensive board and gets to the free throw line again…Nice hustle from Robin who now has 8 points off 4 free throws and two field goals

Nick Young makes his first shot…It’s a three and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Suns

Dudley misses yet another shot…really bad night of shooting for him after making his first two shots of the game

Nash coming back in…He has 14 assists so far but still hasn’t scored yet…probably not 100% with his back

Lopez with an and-1, Robin hustling hard and trying his best to help the team

Suns going to the zone defensively since it seemed to work so well last game…we’ll see if it works again

Blake Griffin adding to his highlight reel now with two back to back dunks

The Clippers appear to have this one in the bag with the Suns not showing any sign of being able to come back.

Clippers win 103-86. Suns shoot 38%, Clippers 50%. Suns with 49rbs, Clippers with 62rbs. Suns with 10 TO’s, Clippers with 15 TO’s. Gortat led the Suns with 23 points, Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 27 points.

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