We can do this, guys!  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns just finished a really tough 15-game stretch in which 12 of those games were on the road, a paltry three of 15 were against teams with losing records and only one of those "easy" games was at home.

In fact, going into that 15-game stretch, the 23-22 9th-place Suns were projected by www.basketball-reference.com to drop to 12th place, winning only eight more games the rest of the way to finish 31-35, with only an 11 percent chance of making the playoffs in 5,000 simulations. And that was assuming a healthy Steve Nash and Grant Hill in their lineup the whole time. Alas, Grant Hill needed knee surgery and missed nine of those 15 games. Then Nash tweaked a hip and struggled through the last three, barely playing against San Antonio.

Uh-oh. So much for that optimistic 11 percent chance of making the playoffs, right?

But these are Alvin Gentry's Suns, who always play better in the second half. These are the Suns who fight and claw and craft their way to wins they weren't supposed to get. These are the Suns with only two guys in their entire rotation who was a starter on his team immediately preceding his stint with the Suns (Nash and Redd), and one of those had a "career ending" injury.

What ACTUALLY happened in that 15-game gauntlet was a Suns renaissance. Despite injuries to Nash and Hill, the Suns pulled out eight big wins out of 15 (18-9 since the All-Star break overall) and now have the playoffs in their hands after a beat-down of the once-scary-but-now-tanking Trailblazers.

These Suns, with a 39-year old All-Star and 10 role players, own the 8th seed in the West with four of their last five games at home. Given the tiebreakers and ending schedules for all relevant teams, all it takes is a 3-2 finish (with one of those over Utah) to claim a playoff spot.

Let's take a closer look at how we got here, because in retrospect it is a special story.

This brutal 15-game stretch began inauspiciously on March 20 after the Suns had surged from a 14-20 All-Star break funk to win nine of 11 during a long home stretch that gave them a 23-22 record.

I wrote an article at that time about the schedule getting much tougher for the Suns

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.

And that was when I assumed the Jazz would fade from relevancy. Unfortunately, they have not -- even beating the Mavericks last night in triple overtime to stay within 1/2 game of the Suns.

In fact, the Suns won eight of those 15 and now sit in 8th place in the West for their troubles.

Look at these juicy stats since the All-Star break for the Suns:

  • 4th in the NBA in points-per-game at 103.1
  • 6th in offensive efficiency
  • 5th in assists per game
  • 2nd in shooting percentage (.475)
  • 3rd fewest turnovers per game
  • 6th in blocks per game
  • 13th in rebounding (historically a terrible number for the Suns)
  • 15th in defensive efficiency

The Phoenix Suns are considered "deep" again. National commentators are touting the play of the bench unit. Opposing bloggers (Dave, from BEdge) mention the Suns depth in game previews. Alvin Gentry called this one of his favorite teams ever, in terms of the collection of guys in that locker room.

Now the Suns need to close the deal. Five games left against playoff-caliber competition: 2nd-seeded Thunder, 4th-seeded Clippers, 6th-seeded Nuggets, 9th-seeded Jazz and finally the top-seeded Spurs. Another gauntlet, but certainly doable. Three wins is all the Suns need.

This is a special 2nd-half, folks. Don't blink or you'll miss it.


Would Jamal Crawford be enough to keep Steve Nash in Phoenix?

Though this rosterbation may be a bit premature since the Phoenix Suns find themselves smack-dab in the middle of an intense run to claim a spot in the Playoffs, this post is deserving given Jamal Crawford's comments during the final quarter of last night's game against the Portland Trailblazers

Here's ALL that we know for sure (*remember that bold word), from Arizona Sports 620's Jon Bloom last nigh:

Jamal Crawford just told EJ on press row and Alvin Gentry on the sidelines that he "needs to be here in Phoenix" w/ Blazer teammates nearby

— Jon Bloom (@Azbloom) April 17, 2012

Let's get into this after the jump.

My first thought was almost one of relief. For years the Phoenix Suns front office has been telling it's fan-base that they are positioning the organization to make big moves next year and to primarily improve the roster through Free Agency. I'm not sure if it's just a reigning sentiment here among Bright Siders or if it is a common feeling among all Suns fans, but for many of us, that promise didn't (or doesn't) compute.

It would seem that under the nebulous shadow of volatility that is the reputation of Robert Sarver, grouped with the aged aging centerpiece of Steve Nash, the lack of the 'player-friendly practices' hosted by D'Antoni (a selling-point years ago) and the absence of an innovative style (the 'Run and Gun' catches no one by surprise anymore - and in fact it is used by many younger and faster teams around the league more effectively than the Suns nowadays), why would any All-Star quality players elect to come to the Valley of Mediocrity?

The comments of Crawford should help to somewhat dispel these types of sentiments - or at least water them down. Why? Because there is appeal in coming to Phoenix. Let's list the obvious:

  • The magical training staff
  • A player-friendly coaching staff
  • Steve Nash (still a boss)
  • The great weather
  • Opportunity
  • Scottsdale
  • Gun Laws
If there is anything else you can think of, let me know in the comments section. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the main thing that free agents see in Phoenix (and this is in large part because of Steve Nash and Grant Hill), is the consistent ability to build and maintain team-chemistry. Our own Seth Pollack tweeted last night,

If I ever write a sports book it would be about the science of team chemistry

— Seth Pollack (@sethpo) April 17, 2012

Why would he tweet something like this? Because year after year here in Arizona this mystical 'team chemistry' thing builds and pushes unlikely teams to do great things. Kurt Warner, the STAT-less Western Conference Finals run also known as 'The Last Time Boris Diaw Ever Did Anything-run' (Sorry Seth, had to go there), the recent playoff runs of the Arizona Diamondbacks and their "Grit-Chemistry-Philosophy," the Phoenix Coyotes led by the best captain in the NHL Shane Doan and their playoff runs, the championships of the Phoenix Mercury, the Suns' improbable sweep of the Spurs and WCF run at the Lakers of two years ago ... and I'm sure the list could go on.

There is something about Phoenix.

Well, back to the present and at least there is enough about Phoenix going on to draw the attention of Jamal Crawford. Here are the details: Crawford signed a two-year deal, but next year he has a player option (5M). The feeling expressed by many (and we can add Jamal to that) is that he will indeed opt out of that 2nd year and test free agency.

Crawford is a legitimate option for the Phoenix Suns at the two-guard and would be a great fit for a Steve Nash-centric offense. He can spread the floor with his range and he can occasionally (or TOO frequently if asked Blazer fans this year) relieve Nash of his play-making load by creating his own shot.

He is a bit on the older side at 32 - and has suffered some nagging injuries this year (knee, groin) - but I'm sure that plays in his plea to come to Phoenix where Grant and Steve and Michael Redd have all provided an inspired example of what our training staff here can do for players.

And what - if anything - is there to make of the last part of Bloom's tweet, that Crawford openly said this with his current teammates close by?

What do you think Bright Siders? Is Crawford worth it? Is a two-guard combo of Shannon Brown and Jamal Crawford a step in the right direction?

Here's what's popping up in the news today after Jon Bloom's tweet last night.

Jamal Crawford has eyes for Phoenix? - ArizonaSports.com
While it's impossible to determine what Crawford really meant with this statement, it's worth noting that the well-traveled scorer would probably be a solid fit in Phoenix, especially if Steve Nash departs via free agency.

Jamal Crawford Wants To Be On Phoenix Suns? - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
Was it a reaction to the team situation or is it something more? Was it a joke? After all, he might not even have meant being here to play for the Suns. Maybe it was lamenting the Oregon weather and wishing he lived here. It is an awfully nice place to live right now. We like the sun. We all know that the ladies here are something else. Maybe it was that.

AND THEN YOU HAVE THIS SPIN ON THE STORY - So apparently after Jon Bloom's tweet, CSNNW's Chris Haynes (Blazer beat writer) reportedly has a "source" with the Suns that says it is the SUNS who are after Crawford and have him number one (after Steve Nash) on their wish-list ... I don't know, but if you ask me, this sounds like an agent trying to cover up the careless comments of his client in an attempt to regain Jamal's market leverage.

Source: Suns will pursue G Jamal Crawford
Chris Haynes, CSNNW.com Trail Blazers Insider (@ChrisBHaynes) Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford will be courted intensely by the Phoenix Suns, a source within the organization tells CSNNW.com.

Source: Suns to Pursue Jamal Crawford | HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford will be courted intensely by the Phoenix Suns, a source within the organization tells CSNNW.com. "Aside from Steve (Nash), he’s (Crawford) high if not the top free agent priority on their list," the source said. "He would fill a need at the two-guard position and he knows they want him."

Report: Suns to go hard after Jamal Crawford this summer | ProBasketballTalk
Would the addition of Jamal Crawford be enough to keep Steve Nash in Phoenix? We may find out as acquiring Crawford seems to be high on the Suns priority list

What do you guys make of all this?

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Would You Like to See Jamal Crawford in a Suns Uniform?

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Everything is okay...mmmkay?

Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.

After weeks of bouncing between the 9th and 10th spots in the NBA Western Conference standings, and getting oh-so-close to the playoff seeding yet never reaching the summit, the Phoenix Suns have finally done it. Thanks to a much needed win against the Portland Trail Blazers last night, as well as some help from the Denver Nuggets who knocked off the Houston Rockets, the Suns are officially in the 8th and final playoff spot ... at least for now.

But this is no time to rest easy.

The Suns now have five important games left during the regular season, with which they are in full control of their own destiny. However, they must continue to play each and every game like it is their last, as they are in a statistical dead heat with the Houston Rockets who the Suns merely have a tie-breaker over. Not only that, they also remain only a half-game ahead of the pesky Utah Jazz who also defeated the Dallas Mavericks last night in a triple overtime thriller.

Here are the five games remaining for the Suns to close out the regular season:

Oklahoma City Wed 04/18 7:00 PM MST
Los Angeles Clippers Thu 04/19 7:30 PM MST
Denver Sat 04/21 2:30 PM MST
@ Utah Tue 04/24 7:30 PM MST
San Antonio Wed 04/25 7:30 PM MST

Ouch.

As you can see, a Suns playoff berth is still anything but a sure thing. But for now, the Suns have reached their goal and should feel very proud of what they've accomplished ...They just can't get complacent.

Read on after the jump for a look at the current standings, a quick recap of last night's action and what to keep an eye on tonight.

Here are the most up to date NBA Western Conference standings:

Wc_standings_04-17-2012_medium

Key Games Last Night:

Phoenix Suns BEAT Portland Trail Blazers 125-107

Suns Trounce Trail Blazers, End the Night Tied for 8th in the Western Conference -- Bright Side of the Sun

Los Suns jumped out to a 35-24 first quarter lead. After some Luke Babbitt and Nolan Smith nonsense, the Suns restored order, going on an 11--2 second quarter run. Channing Frye scored 11 quick points, and the Suns played a modicum of defense to slow the Blazers and exit the half with a 66-53 lead. Steve Nash dished 10 assists in his first 17 minutes of play, and every Suns starter save Nash scored in double figures.

Houston Rockets LOST to Denver Nuggets 105-102

Rockets Fall To Nuggets, Out of Playoffs in 105-102 Loss -- The Dream Shake

This time, it really seemed like they had them. Yet, as has become an unbreakable habit, the Rockets were unable to get stops when they needed them late in the game and fell, 105-102.

Utah Jazz BEAT Dallas Mavericks in Triple OT 123-121

Mavericks Vs. Jazz Post Game Thread: Utah Wins in Triple OT 123-121 -- SLC Dunk

Jazz needed to win this game, and they held on strong after all the threes Dallas took, and held on to win this game. Al Jefferson finished with 28 points (off of 25 shots), and had 26 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal and assist.


Games to watch tonight:

The only game that is remotely in the Suns' interest tonight would be the Memphis Grizzlies at the Minnesota Timberwolves. However since the Grizzlies currently have a three game lead on the Phoenix, there is very little hope of the Suns catching them at this point.

Stay Tuned ...


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It is a good morning, whether you are slowly dying in a cubicle or stuck in traffic, or lounging by the pool...The Suns won last night, and if the season ended right this very second, they'd be playing the playoffs.


Suns vs. Blazers Full Game Highlights - 4-16-2012 NBA Game Recap (via AllDayNBAhighlights)




PHOENIX — Tonight we learned what happens when a team in the midst of a massive tank job meets a team in desperate need of a win to vault into one of the top eight sought-after spots in the...

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