Recapping the Western Conference action in the Suns chase for the playoffs
Hey look - something went the Suns way last night! That's pretty exciting stuff.
One of the things I usually point to when trying not to get crazy about individual NBA games is the fact that there are so damn many of them (82 to be exact) . You've got to mete out your crazy and focus only on "should win" or blown games. This is in stark contrast to a sport like the NFL where your insanity is concentrated into just 16 weeks.
Well now that we're in the final 10 games of the Suns season that's all out the window. Each one of the remaining games matters - a lot. So be all crazy, get all panicky and jittery, and definitely wear that one shirt that the Suns always win when you're wearing it (you know the shirt). Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.
Thursday March 27th Key Western Conference Results:
Portland Trail Blazers 100 Atlanta Hawks 85 (Recap) - The big news for Portland last night was the return of LaMarcus Aldridge after a 7 game absence. With their All-Star big back in the fold the Blazers basically cruised to victory over a Hawks team that is seeing its grasp on the 8th seed in the East fall by the wayside. Aldridge led the way for Portland with 25/16 game while the Hawks were Hawky. The Hawks should consider themselves lucky that the Suns are playing the Knicks tonight and are still generous enough to try to help them out in their race to be a human sacrifice to the Pacers.
Los Angeles Clippers 109 Dallas Mavericks 103 (Recap) - Yesterday my one sentence preview of this game said that the best thing that happened for the Suns was the Clips losing to the Pelicans and Chris Paul having a historically bad game - as per usual I was proven correct. It definitely got a little hairy in the 4th quarter when the Mavericks opened up a 10 point lead but the Clippers rallied and hung a 3rd loss on Dallas this season. Chris Paul captained the Clippers attack with 31 points and 9 assists while a Kia Spokesman and DeAndre Jordan were good first mates as they provided double-doubles. Vince Carter shot 9/13 (4/5 from three) on his way to 23 points as he looked to continue our long standing one-way feud.
Current Western Conference Standings:
|2. Oklahoma City
|3. LA Clippers
|4. Houston||49||22||.690||6||7-3||WON 5|
|6. Golden State
Friday March 28th Western Conference Games of Significance:
Knicks @ Suns - If you can figure out the New York Knicks then you've got a leg up on me. They have won 9 of their last 11 games after having lost their previous 7. The only impressive win in that 9 of 11 was a home win over the Pacers as they spent the rest of the time feasting on their sub-mediocre Eastern Conference cohorts. Oh and they are just 3 days removed from losing to the Lakers by 24982 (OK it was 31 but you can't say it didn't feel like 24982). Regardless of how weird the Knicks season is going they've still got one of the best scorers in the NBA in Carmelo Anthony and he can pop off at any time. In personal news I agreed to attend this game with Bryan Gibberman - even with a free ticket I'm not sure what I was thinking. Wish me luck.
Trail Blazers @ Bulls - After last night the Blazers are probably feeling pretty good about themselves - they got LaMarcus Aldridge back AND they didn't lose. The Bulls however are the basketball version of your mother-in-law and thrive on making you feel worse about yourself. Joakim Noah & Co. - please crush any good feelings the Blazers may have.
Grizzlies @ Warriors - This is one of the many "no-lose" scenario games that exist on the schedule. Considering how tight everything is and the fact that I think Memphis is just flat out better - I'd say maybe hope for a Golden State loss here? Reasonable minds could disagree and I'd expect many of you will.
The Phoenix Suns own the 8th spot in the West, but need to keep winning games to hold on. Hosting the New York Knicks represents the Suns best chance to win a game for the rest of the season. After this, the Suns are either on the road or hosting a Western Conference powerhouse.
The Phoenix Suns, winners of 6 out of 7 games, have sole possession of the 8th playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. By contrast, at 14 games over .500 (43-29) the Suns would be 3rd in the East. Even more exciting, the Suns are only 2.5 games behind Portland for the 5th seed.
The Suns have a playoff spot with 10 games to go, but those 10 games will be tough. Thankfully, the Slash Brothers are in full-on playoff mode already. The Suns record when both Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic start and finish the same game: 18-5. That's 12-4 before "the injury" and 6-1 since Bledsoe returned to the starting lineup.
The Suns need to keep winning games, and especially need a win on their home court against a losing team. After tonight, the Suns finish with 6 of 9 on the road with their only home games against teams with better records: Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies (slightly). Ouch.
On the plus side for the Knickerbockers, the Knicks have won 9 of their last 11 games as they fight to make the playoffs in an Eastern Conference where a 30-42 record is a major challenge to the 8th seed.
Former Suns PF Amare Stoudemire has had a renaissance of late by scoring 16.5 points and pulling down 5.9 rebounds in 28 minutes a night over the last 9 games he's played.
Carmelo Anthony has been a tremendous player for the Knicks all season (28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists per game), but few other players have stepped up until these past few weeks. For several months, he was on an island with only rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. exceeding expectations.
Almost-Sun Raymond Felton has been a disaster this year in New York. Former Suns Earl Clark and Shannon Brown were picked up after they were released by other teams in February and now have limited roles on the Knicks.
But hey, there's always someone who has a career game against the Suns when it's least expected. Take your pick on this team.
8th place all alone! Winners of 6 of their last 7 games!
Need I say more?
Yes. Let's take a moment to recognize Markieff Morris for the beast he has been this season. You will see a lot of articles about his candidacy for Sixth Man of the Year but he is a longshot to win it. Chicago's Taj Gibson has nearly identical stats and plays in a bigger market much closer to the East.
Morris will also be a finalist for Most Improved, but there are so many candidates on the Suns that they may all cancel each other out. You might see a clamoring for 'most improved team' when the results come out with a non-Suns winner, followed by four Suns in the top five or six finalists (Bledsoe, Dragic, Morris and Green).
Back to Chief Keef. He speaks in low tones but is truly the Suns enforcer. His 12 technical fouls are 4th in the league, but he doesn't get those by whining about calls on his plays. He often gets those Ts defending one of his teammates. He steps in for a teammate with a puffed chest and harsh words to draw the T. Opponents often scatter when Morris and Morris materialize in a scrum.
Statistically, Keef has transformed this season. You know about the scoring and rebounding off the bench. Here are a few other nuggets, courtesy of basketball-reference.com
And he's durable. In the last two seasons, he has not been forced from a game due to injury. Consistency and durability. Exactly what coaches love.
As a postscript to the Suns section of this preview, let me just say that it's a
good great week in BSotS-land when Phoenix Stan, East Bay Ray, Mike Lisboa and Scott Howard all post headline articles on our beloved team!
The Suns have not been 14 games over .500 since 2010, and now it's like old home week on BSotS. We are a better place with these luminaries back for cameo appearances.
That leaves just one question: where the hell are the others, like Wil Cantrell, Trevor Paxson and Eutychus? Or Keefy and DiM? Or any number of 2010 All-Stars who have yet to come back as the Suns rise from the ashes?
The Knicks play slow. They have the league's 28th-ranked pace, and we all know that is the Suns kryptonite more than anything else in this league. Against the league's bottom five 'pace' teams, the Suns have barely won: Memphis Grizzlies (0-3), Chicago Bulls (0-2), New York Knicks (0-1), Utah Jazz (2-2), Brooklyn Nets (0-2). That's 2-10, with the only two wins against one of the league's worst teams.
The Knicks walk into their halfcourt, pound the ball into the ground and rarely turn it over. It's effective enough to get them the 11th-rated offense in the league. The Suns will need to be patient, run when they can but not rely on the running game to win. In the half court, the Suns will have to play their Slash Brother style with pick-and-rolls from both sides of the floor to tear the Knicks up.
This is a scary game for Suns fans who want to chalk this up as one of the last "easy" wins of the seasons. The game, on the surface, looks like an easy Suns win. It's one of the last easy games on the slate.
Cross your fingers and hope the Suns don't drop this one because the pace slogs them into submission.
Wherein you suffer through some random thoughts from a guy who used to think he had something useful to say about this team.
Hi, friends. Remember me? I'm the aging white guy in a cheap t-shirt from the bad side of 51st Avenue. I used to run this joint but things are better here now that I've moved on to Chocolate City where the walls are fast and the heart is slim.
Paste his prime, rolling hard from the 602, balling like you used to
Remember me. I'm Phoenix Stan!
I guess I'm feeling a bit nostalgic after seeing the Boyz in Purple for my one and only time this year. They didn't disappoint, although I think we all would have loved to see that 25-point lead hold on long enough to push a normally weak-willed Wizards squad over the edge into slumber. That would have allowed me to glimpse the Archie Goodwin Show™.
No worries. We'll all be seeing plenty of the AGS™ in the coming years as he picks up innumerable ASG MVPs and such.
Meanwhile, a kid they called "Tragic" (against my frequent protestations) has grown into a man. A MAN. A confident man and proud pappa who put together all those pieces of talent, skill, and athleticism with a nice blend of humility tempered by an inner steel that's always been part of his feisty play. Still super quick with a smile but more measured with the ball, he's every bit the player I imagined...and so much more.
Watching Goran's career develop and mature is just another reminder that young players are not finished products. If the right ingredients are there, be patient.
Eric is an interesting fellow. Supremely confident but still sparse and cautious with his words. His defensive instincts are impressive to watch. When people talk about having a "nose for the ball" the best example to give is Bledsoe's leather-sniffing proboscis. He's a work in progress running a team and seemed a bit shaky with his fitness -- understandably so on both counts -- but according to his former Kentucky running mate is finally getting to emerge from the shadows of Wall and Paul.
Folks, I know you know this, but the long Phoenix tradition of talented guards seems destined to continue for many more years with the Slobama Slash Brothers. I'm excited. You can build great things around these two with Archie Goodwin as a highly capable third wheel destined to be the league's first sixth man MVP winner.
It was fun to see a healthy and happy Channing Frye doing Channing Frye things on and off the court. Witty and kind and dropping S-bombs loud enough to be heard in the upper deck in between three bombs loud enough to silence all the decks of a partisan road crowd.
P.J. Tucker proved me wrong. The improvement in his offensive game and his value as the vocal personification of this team's never-say-die attitude makes him an offseason priority. Pay the man already.
Even the comedic duo of Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas seem to play an important role in the mysterious thing called "team chemistry". They aren't the volatile and explosive ingredients in the soup but they are the vital binding agents that help keep all the parts together. If you are looking for a team with talent that lacks the vital mix, look no further than the Washington Wizards.
Just don't look too long. Your eyes won't be happy.
I'm sorry I don't have anything more profound to add to the daily cacophony that is Bright Side of the Sun. I didn't bring any rosterbation fodder or even a sliver of vitriolic rant. Thank you for sharing this season with me and for keeping this old house humming. You guys rock.