PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have a chance to pull within a half-game of the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot when the two teams clash tonight in US...

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"Why does Luis Scola's hair look like that?"  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)



Looks like Marcus Camby is a go for tonight - We need Gortat and Lopez to be on point with Dalembert and Camby.

Marcus Camby trade now final. He is free to play tonight vs. Suns.

— Jason Friedman (@RocketsJCF) March 18, 2012

I also failed to mention that this will be the first time the Morris twins face-of in a real NBA game. That has to do something emotionally for Markeiff - maybe he'll continue to show signs of breaking his rookie blues tonight with his brother in the house.


SCOLA MUST BE STOPPED! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It is a Story of contrast between the Houston Rockets and the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets are in the top 8 of the west - while the Suns look on (with blazing fury and determination) from the outside. The Rockets are injury-stricken for the moment with two of their best players Kyle Lowry (illness) and Kevin Martin (Shoulder) out, the Suns are all healthy and ready to go. The Rockets made moves at the trade deadline trading Jordan Hill to the Lakers for Derek Fisher (who has yet to report to the team), acquiring Marcus Camby (who also has yet to suit up for the Rockets - though he could tonight), and most recently signing Courtney Fortson to a 10-day contract in an attempt to find a backup PG with Lowry out... the Suns did nothing at the deadline - keeping their roster in tact.

And now most importantly - the Suns are riding a hot shooting streak and massive momentum after having just won all 3 games in a back-to-back-to-back set (a feat only accomplished by 3 other teams in the league - Chicago, Miami and OKC) and overall are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Rockets are struggling with their thin line-up and are only 3-7 in that same stretch.

Can the Suns make it 4 in a row for the first time this season? Can the Suns also break a 4 game losing streak to this Rockets team? Can the Suns break the .500 hump? A win tonight and the Suns could pull to within a half-game of a playoff position. A little more after the jump.

Derek Fisher?

Over at he Dreamshake our friends wonder what will become of the former Laker. They shipped former UofA standout Jordan Hill for him, but he has yet to report to the team. Earlier this week it was reported that the Rockets intended to buy out the veteran PG and were in hot pursuit of Patty Mills who had been playing in China for a year and was just cleared to return to the NBA - but Coach Pop and the Spurs won the bidding war for him and now the Rockets find themselves in a difficult spot at the PG position with Lowry out and no backup.

Goran Dragic has averaged 15.7 points and 9.4 assists and is shooting 52% in 7 games started this season and Houston is 3-2 since Dragic moved to the starting PG spot in the lineup in place of Lowry - so that's nice for them (AND I WON'T HIDE IT - I'm happy for Goran as well. I would really like to see him continue to develop and improve, still one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA). So now with this backup PG problems it seems the Rockets might be rethinking their Derek Fisher buyout - but as insurance they signed former Clipper rookie Courtney Fortson to a 10-day contract.

We'll wait and see what happens to Kobe's best bud.

[Note by Eutychus, 03/18/12 2:11 PM PDT ]

Looks like we have a verdict

Y! Sources: Derek Fisher has reached a buyout agreement with the Houston Rockets. tinyurl.com/7fecwjf

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) March 18, 2012

Beware of the Bench

Last month when these two teams met it was the Houston bench that won the game for the Rockets outscoring the Phoenix bench 57-13 - the team looks a little different after the trade deadline, but Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger and company are still a very real threat though they are probably going to be starting tonight. Despite being thin the Rockets have a lot of firepower and our bench is going to need to come in tonight and continue their hot shooting and good chemistry - but also they need to improve their defense.

The Polish Slump

Don't think I need to go into detail with this one - even the though the Suns conquered the back-to-back-to-back they did it largely in part without the regular contributions of Marcin Gortat. It seems like ever since his Polish Heritage night when Robin Lopez played extended minutes for him at the end of the game Marc hasn't quite been himself. Is it mental? More than likely just going through a slump - we saw Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill and heck even Steve Nash work through rough slumps earlier this year. It's about that time for Marcin to hit the slump bug and smash it as well. It's almost like we just took him for granted - that he'll always provide a double-double, but luckily for us Robin Lopez has answered the call and played extremely well both defensively and offensively during Gortat's slump.

Let's hope his troubles don't last too long and he can get his head back on straight ASAP.

MATCHUPS

PG: Steve Nash - Goran Dragic

SG: Jared Dudley - Courtney Lee

SF: Grant Hill - Chase Budinger

PF: Channing Frye - Luis Scola

C: Marcin Gortat - Samuel Dalembert

The Suns are in the midst of an amazing season turnaround - This game is a crucial one in the playoff hunt since the Rockets are one of the teams in the top 8 that Phoenix is chasing. The players know the importance of this game and they also understand their opponent and what they have been able to do against them. It's time to see what kind of hot-streak this really is, especially in the coming weeks like Alex has pointed out!

LET'S GET IT ON!


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Phoenix Suns 99, Houston Rockets 86 It was not long ago that the Phoenix Suns dropped their fourth straight game to the Los Angeles Lakers to fall a season-worst seven games below .500. That sure...

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Will we see this in May 2012? Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Fortunately, the Suns have taken care of business at home recently to pull their season out of the muck and into 9th place in the West. One final win on this homestand tonight against Houston can pull the Suns within 1/2-game of a playoff spot. Sounds rosy, right?

Unfortunately, the only thing rosy about the subsequent 15 games are the thorns.

Starting Tuesday in Miami, the Suns play 12 of their next 15 on the road with two of their home games against Western powers San Antonio and Los Angeles (Lakers). Ouch. If you look at current records and team strengths, the Suns would be favored to win only 4 of those 15 games.

After the jump, take a look at the Suns' upcoming opponents as well as the schedules of their immediate competition for a playoff spot (including pretty charts).

Suns-sked_medium

*All graphs courtesy of basketball-reference.com

Playing only the odds, the Suns could comfortably be expected to win just 4 of those 15 games (Cavaliers, Hornets, Kings and Jazz). But really, that's even a stretch since only 1 of those games (Hornets) is a home game. The other teams will likely be tanking though, enhancing the Suns' chances for a needed W.

But what of the other 11 games in that 15-game stretch? Which of those can the Suns hope to win? Maybe Orlando, the NBA's best impression of Jekyll and Hyde. Maybe Indiana, who just got smoked by an energized Knicks team twice in a row. Maybe the Timberwolves, sans Rubio. And maybe Houston, who the Suns seem to be able to beat fairly often.

So, if all goes really well, then the Suns might take 7 or 8 wins out of this 15-game stretch. But you can't put those 7 or 8 wins in your back pocket. Just thinking reasonably, the Suns will lose at least 2 of those "winnable" games. To offset those losses, the Suns would have to pull off a couple of upsets against better teams just to come out of this 15-game stretch with a .500 record.

After that, the season closes with 5 of 6 at home, with 4 of those against playoff teams jockeying for final positioning (Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, Nuggets).

A reasonably optimistic final record after the schedule gets a lot tougher? 33-33.

Now the big question: is that enough to make the playoffs?

Here are the current standings...

Current-stndgs-mar18_medium

According to basketball-reference.com, the Suns project only to 31 wins (a 9-13 finish) and an 11% chance to the make the playoffs (behind Houston, Portland, Minnesota and Utah).

Let's take a look at the playoff projections:

Playoff-projections-mar18_medium

As you can see, the Suns project to have the toughest finishing schedule of any team close to them in the standings. Sure the projected record for remaining games is similar (ranging 9 to 12 wins), but 3 games is a huge difference in the standings.

Will Portland AND Utah tank the rest of the season, dropping them out of the hunt? Probably.

Will Minnesota lose more than half their remaining games without Ricky Rubio? Maybe.

But will Houston lose most of their remaining games? That's the big "I dunno". They've been bad recently, despite Dragic "killing it" in the last few, but they picked up Marcus Camby at the deadline and remain, overall, more talented than the Suns.

That's a lot that has to go right for the Suns to make the playoffs, BSotS fans.

What say you? Will the Suns earn the right to play OKC in the first round?

Poll
Will the Suns earn the right to play Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs?

  359 votes | Results


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