Goran Dragic led off the night with 18 points in the first quarter, and the Phoenix Suns beat the New York Knicks by 24 points to strengthen their hold on the 8th seed.
The first half was punctuated by a fan hitting the vaunted half-court shot to win $77,777 dollars, It got even better when he was mobbed by the Suns players at midcourt during the timeout. He was hip-checked by Gerald Green, dapped by Eric Bledsoe and patted on the back by Morris and just about every guy on the bench. Great, great scene.
After that, the Suns blew out the Knicks and it wasn't even close.
The Suns built a 22-point lead by halftime lead that felt bigger than it was, proving it by jumping up by 32 by mid-fourth, giving the Suns and their fans the kind of 'take care of business' game they really needed to have.
Dragic got yet another battle scar, needing stiches to stop the bleeding from his eye, but he came back to score another 12 points in the second half before it was a blowout.
Our old Amare Stoudemire looked studly for a while, putting up 8 and 6 in his 17 first-half minutes but the Knicks just weren't feeling it as a team.
The second half was even more of a blowout, as the Suns stretched the lead to 32 much like they'd led on Wednesday night by 25 at the same point. Clearly, the Suns would let off the gas at some point, but when? And how close would the Knicks be able to get?
On Wednesday night, the Wizards got all the way back to 3 points from 25.
The Knicks didn't show any real signs of life between the early fourth and late third, and by then it was too late to make it a game.
The Suns lead at the end of three was still 22 points despite a 13-4 Knicks run with their starters.
The Knicks run continued in the early 4th, cutting the lead to 17, but then it petered out after that as Bledsoe made a three and Dragic got three points the other way (layup-and-one).
Miles Plumlee got a double-double, Bledsoe nearly had a triple-double and Goran Dragic had 30 points before the Suns pulled away for good. While the team wasn't able to turn it back on in Washington until the final minutes, they turned this one into a laugher in the mid-fourth to make all four quarters a sound beating.
Former Suns Shannon Brown entered the game for the Knicks after the Suns pushed the lead back to 27. The Suns countered with Archie Goodwin. Both teams played their deep, deep bench to finish the game. Alex Len, Shavlik Randolph, Dionte Christmas and Ish Smith joined Archie for the final minutes.
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.