Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how The Grand Budapest Hotel was a little disappointing. It's all fair game here. Get crazy, y'all.
Where: Barclays Center - Brooklyn, NY
When: 4:30PM ARIZONA TIME
Youth and inexperience take on age and poise at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight. The Phoenix Suns hope to avenge a buzzer beater loss to the Brooklyn Nets waaaaaaay back on November 15. Back then, a playoff run was but a twinkle in the eye of Suns fans and the Nets were supposed to challenge the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for Eastern Conference supremacy. Both teams ended up in vastly different places than they envisioned in the early weeks of the 2013-14 season.
The Phoenix Suns are fighting for their playoff lives despite exceeding every expectation set forth for them this season. The Brooklyn Nets are all but guaranteed a spot in the Eastern playoffs, yet have been disappointing for much of the year. For both teams, every game left on their statement is a statement about their intentions for the post-season.
The Nets were supposed to be the Chosen Ones, handpicked to lay waste to the Eastern Conference. They were supposed to be a Supergroup with championship pedigree to bring instant legitimacy to a new owner in a new house in a town routinely called the basketball capital of the world. It hasn't panned out that way, due to chemistry issues and injuries, yet they appear to be finding their rhythm at this late juncture of the season. After a disastrous 10-21 start, Brooklyn has gone 23-10 since January 1st and have shown no signs of slowing down.
Two of the Nets' regular starters may not be present for today's game: Brook Lopez is out with a foot injury and Kevin Garnett is questionable with a back injury. So that only leaves Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce to contend with in the future Hall-of-Famer department. No big deal, right? Brooklyn has done just fine without Garnett, winning 6 of their last 8 since he aggravated his back. Rounding out the starting line-up are Shaun Livingston and Mason Plumlee. That's right, tip-off will be a battle of the Plumdogs.
Aside from a stacked starting line-up, Brooklyn offers the kind of challenge that Phoenix has struggled to rise to this season: a slow methodical pace. Brooklyn is the 5th slowest team in the NBA. While Phoenix was able to impose their will against Toronto, expect the Nets to be less willing to be lured into a track meet. They also play tough defense, holding opponents to 95.5 points since their New Year's turnaround. In their last 7 games, none of their opponents have reached the century mark. There is one glaring chink their defensive armor. Brooklyn allows the 7th highest 3-point percentage to opponents in the NBA, which plays right into Phoenix's plans. Look for Phoenix to shoot early and often from behind the arc.
It's all about momentum for Phoenix. Riding a 2-game winning streak, Phoenix has a chance to sweep this road trip and take another step toward the playoffs. Despite it being the second night of a back-to-back, the Suns should have gotten a few extra hours of rest thanks to the early tip-off yesterday. Every little bit helps as the season grinds on.
Though Eric Bledsoe didn't shoot the lights out in Toronto, he made his presence felt at the charity stripe. It's that kind of aggression that opens the floor for the rest of the Suns and prevents teams from zeroing in on Goran Dragi?. I expect to see more of the same tonight. Another standout performance from Gerald Green would go a long way toward a Suns victory as well.
Phoenix's bench will need to come to play as well. In Garnett's absence, the Brooklyn bench has stepped up in a big way, especially Marcus Thornton, who has flourished since being acquired from Sacramento. Andrei Kirilenko is also back after missing a few games due to an ankle injury. If Markieff and Marcus Morris can continue their strong play, Phoenix ought to be able to win the battle of the benches.
Note: For the Nets, I've used the statistical leaders who are expected to be available for tonight's game.
Who's Hungrier? I would love to boil this game down to P.J. Tucker vs. Joe Johnson or Plumlee vs. Plumlee, but plain and simple, this game (and maybe all of the Suns' games for the rest of the season) need to be about desire. Phoenix wasn't supposed to do a damn thing this season and now they are on the cusp of doing the unthinkable. As good as the Nets have been playing, I think Phoenix can take them if the intensity that was on display for stretches in Toronto makes a sustained appearance tonight.
I think the Suns are getting used to the idea of embracing their "stupidity" and just winning. Joe Johnson got us with a buzzer beater last time? Phoenix turns the tables and wins a close one, 102-100.
Selection Sunday has come and gone and the Phoenix Suns still find themselves a bubble team. But what if the playoffs did start today... and what if the NBA altered their ineffective playoff seeding format?
The Suns made a statement to the selection committee with their early morning romp against the Toronto Raptors, but still have their work cut out for them with just 16 games to go.
Memphis is still one game up on the Suns and also own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Since starting just 15-19 while dealing with injuries the Grizzlies are 24-8 over their last 32 games.
Dallas is 1.5 games ahead of Phoenix and has won 14 of their last 20. The Mavericks start an eight game home stand tomorrow and their remaining schedule is far from daunting.
Golden St. and Portland are almost out of striking distance.
The battle for the playoffs may very well come down to the very last games that include Dallas vs Phoenix on 4/12, Phoenix vs Memphis on 4/14 and Dallas @ Memphis on 4/16, the last night of the regular season.
There's a real chance it's going to take 50 wins to get in.
Unless you're in the Eastern Conference. At 27-40 the New York Knicks still have an outside chance. If the Atlanta Hawks continue at their current pace they will finish around 37-45. That means NY might make it interesting if they can close out 10-5.
37 wins. That's all it takes. Maybe less. The Suns already have 38.
Obviously the current system in the NBA sucks. But if we know anything about broken systems in professional sports it's that they tend to be perpetuated for interminably and excruciatingly long periods of time (see college football) before even some movement is made in the right direction.
Seeing as how I'm caught up in NCAA Basketball mayhem I decided I'd take a stab at seeding the NBA teams in a 16 team bracket and see how it compared to the match ups we would be "looking forward to" under the current rules.
*Table courtesy of teamrankings.com
Good Wins - @ Houston Rockets 97-88 12/4, @ LA Clippers 107-88 12/30, @ Indiana Pacers 102-94 1/30, vs San Antonio Spurs 106-85 2/21, vs Oklahoma City Thunder 128-122 3/6
Bad Losses - vs Sacramento Kings 106-113 11/20, vs Utah Jazz 104-112 11/30, vs Cleveland Cavaliers 101-110 3/12
Last 10 5-5
Intangibles - Return of Eric Bledsoe
Here's the rest of the bracket starting with #1 overall seed Oklahoma City in the Midwest bracket.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (1)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (8)
3. Portland Trail Blazers (9)
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (16)
1. San Antonio Spurs (2)
2. Golden St. Warriors (7)
3. Phoenix Suns (10)
4. Washington Wizards (15)
1. Los Angeles Clippers (3)
2. Houston Rockets (6)
3. Dallas Mavericks (11)
4. Brooklyn Nets (14)
1. Indiana Pacers (4)
2. Miami Heat (5)
3. Chicago Bulls (12)
4. Toronto Raptors (13)
The current NBA playoff structure based off of the Conference and Divisional seeding is a joke. Travel and regional considerations have much less importance than they once did.
Why the hell does it make sense that each Conference should be represented in the Championship game of a sport?
Here's where college basketball and football are doing better than the pros. The NFC was a much stronger conference in the NFL last season. The Western Conference is much stronger than the East in the NBA. Not only should teams not be left out of the playoffs based on this (Arizona Cardinals), but it actually creates an even bigger competitive disadvantage from the standpoint that a team in the weaker conference has an easier road to the championship game. Less of a chance to get worn down and beaten up.
The Miami Heat have one series (Indiana) to get to the Finals.
OKC could have Memphis, Houston and San Antonio.
This adds to the bottom end talent, too. By culling Atlanta and Charlotte it adds Minnesota and Phoenix. The darling Suns and Kevin Love are just slightly more watchable than those two godawful teams. I can guarantee you that there's no way in hell I'll watch a playoff game that involves Atlanta or Charlotte, perhaps even if players on their rosters are in the stands cheering on real playoff teams.
The seeding premise is just based on the NCAA bracket theme. The real idea is this.
Seed the teams by record 1-16 and let them at it irrespective of divisions and conferences. I might even tweak it different ways, but this would be a pretty damn simple and easy to implement improvement.