That 4th quarter.  It hurt to watch.  Back and forth, back and forth.  For the first 8 minutes it was a tennis match with both teams exchanging buckets and staying within a point or 2 of each other.  Then Dirk Nowtizki hit a 3-pointer.  Then Monta Ellis scored off a Suns turnover.  Then Devin Harris scored his first points of the game by hitting a bomb from deep behind the 3-point line.  Just like that the Mavericks had a commanding 8-point lead with 3:03 to go.

But these Phoenix Suns?  They don't stop.  Maybe they can't stop.  Eric Bledsoe (29 points on 11 of 15 shooting) went hard to the hole for 2 points.  Then after a rare and merciful Monta miss (15 of 23 on the night for 37 points), Markieff Morris nailed 2 clutch free throws.  And the following play, the Bledshow continued with a steal and coast-to-coast fastbreak lay-in.  Suns down by 2 with 1:15 to go in the game.

Bledsoe makes 1 of 2 free throws from a loose ball foul: 1 point Mavs lead, 52.7 seconds left.

Vince Carter would miss badly on a 3 point attempt leading to a Bledsoe outlet to Gerald Green, who missed a bunny from about 8 feet.  26.9 seconds left to go.

Dallas timeout.  Phoenix foul.  Monta Ellis hits 1 of 2 free throws.  2 point Mavs lead, 18.7 seconds to go.

Timeout.  Inbound.  Bledsoe.  Blocked.  Monta.  Make 1.  Miss 1.  3 point Mavs lead. 9.4 seconds.

Inbound.  Markieff.  3.  Miss.  Game.

Say this for the Suns.  They left it all on the court.  Goran Dragic was not himself tonight playing on the injured ankle.  That didn't stop Phoenix from giving their all.  Bledsoe finished with 29 points and 6 assists.  Channing Frye came up huge when it mattered most with 21 points.  Everyone tried hard, but they couldn't all deliver.  Markieff Morris, in addition to missing the Suns' last shot missed 5 of the other 7 shots he took for arguably his worst game of the season.  Ditto Gerald Green who was an even worse 2-9 from the field.

Give it up for the Dallas Mavericks.  Monta Ellis was unstoppable unless he was at the free throw line finishing with 37 points.  After a quiet first half, Dirk Nowitzki showed up in a big way in the second half, scoring 21 of his 23 points.  And Brandan Wright had a quiet 12 points but a very loud 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.  Those blocks changed momentum and the course of the game.

For a while the Suns were too stupid to lose.  Maybe now they're just not seasoned enough to win.  With this loss, the Suns need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs.  It's gonna be a long couple of games to finish the season.

First Half

The first quarter started promisingly enough.  Channing Frye hit his first 4 3-pointers to pace the Phoenix offense.  It looked like Phoenix might jump out big, but turnovers (7) led to several Dallas possessions.  At about the 5 minute mark of the quarter, Coach Jeff Hornacek opted to go small, sitting both Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee.  It may be a coincidence, but the Mavs immediately had a field day in the key, scoring 20 points in the paint, courtesy of Monta Ellis (8), Brandan Wright (6) and Samuel Dalembert (6).  Mavs lead after one: 27-26.

The second quarter can be summed up in one word: Bled-Show.  13 points on 3 pointers, strong drives and free throws (17 in the first half).  He led Phoenix to a 31-19 drubbing of Dallas.  The Suns shot 60.0% to the Mavs' 33.3%.  Strong defensive play by the Suns led to 6 Dallas turnovers.  A Monta Ellis (14 first half points)  floater at the buzzer cut the Suns' lead to 11, 57-46.

Second Half

No surprise in the third quarter.  Phoenix left the door open and Dallas came back in.  Dirk started doing Dirk Things and Monta Ellis kept doing Monta Ellis.  The two combined to score 25 of Dallas' 29 third quarter points.  They outscored the Suns entirely, who only managed 21 points in the quarter on 42.1% shooting.  Phoenix held on to a 3-point lead going into the 4th quarter.  Would it be enough?

Blowing 21 point leads in the middle of a playoff race is bad for your health.

In the interest of full disclosure I avoided Bright Side like the plague last night after that game.  In fact I still haven't gone through the game thread or the post game thread because I'm literally terrified to do so.  Love you guys anyway.

But since I'm still sort of a masochist I went and saw the movie Draft Day with Kevin Costner.  My review?  It's exactly what you think but if you want to get a few laughs (its not supposed to be funny) and want to save a few bucks on a masters class in how not to negotiate - then draft day is for you.

Friday April 11th Key Western Conference Results:

San Antonio Spurs 112 Phoenix Suns 104 (Recap) -  San Antonio played without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Phoenix played without Goran Dragic and the Suns blew a 21 point lead to lose a game they really should have had. It's almost as simple as that.  Eric Bledsoe turned in a tremendous performance with 30 points (11/16) 11 rebounds and 9 assists while Gerald Green added 27 and Markieff Morris chipped in 20.

The story of the game for the Spurs was Danny Green.  Once the Spurs fell behind Green reverted to 2013 NBA Finals mode and went nuclear - scoring 33 points including 7/10 from three point range.  Tony Parker returned from an injury to score 18 points in just 24 minutes.  I'm too disappointed to continue.

Memphis Grizzlies 117 Philadelphia 76ers 95 (Recap) -  If you expected Memphis to lose this game then you clearly believe in fairy tales.  Nobody played more than 31 minutes for Memphis and 13 different people scored.  The win combined with the Suns loss put the Grizzlies back into the 8 seed in the West.  Something called Casper Ware played 6 minutes for the 76ers and had 4 points while another thing called Adonis Thomas scored 4 points in his 8 minutes.  Bonus points ot anyone who can tell me anything about either of those guys off the top of their heads -  I'm pretty sure they were both in Starship Troopers.

Golden State Warriors 112 Los Angeles Lakers 95 (Recap) -  Watching the Lakers get continually drummed by our Western Conference playoff competition is absolutely infuriating to me.  Steph Curry scored 30 points to lead the Warriors who saw David Lee return to the lineup while Andre Iguodala sat with knee tendinitis.  Everyone sucks for the Lakers.  The easy win for Golden State clinched a playoff berth for Full Squad.

Sorry Coffel - I sort of mailed that one in.

Current Western Conference Standings:

1.San Antonio
62 18 .775 - 8-2 WON 2
2. Oklahoma City
58 21 .734 3.5
7-3 WON 3
3. LA Clippers
55 24 .696 6.5 7-3 LOST 1
4. Houston 52 27 .658 9.5 5-5 LOST 2
5. Portland
52 28 .650 10 7-3 WON 3
6. Golden State
49 30 .620 12.5 6-4 WON 1
7. Dallas
48 32 .600 14 6-4 LOST 1
8. Memphis
47 32 .595 14.5
6-4 WON 2
47 32 .595 14.5 7-3 LOST 1

Saturday April 12th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Suns @ Mavericks - This is the only one on the schedule tonight and you may have figured out it's a mildly large one.  The King of Density has you covered on the preview so I won't say much other than I really hope Goran Dragic plays.  I really, really hope Goran Dragic plays.  If the Suns win tonight they'll be playing Memphis on Monday for a playoff berth - if they lose they'll be playing to avoid elimination.  For emotional hedging purposes I'll take the Mavericks by 8.

Time: 5:30 pm MST TV: NBATV Despite last night’s agonizing defeat at the hands of the Spurs, the Phoenix Suns still control their playoff destiny. A win tonight in Dallas would give Phoenix the...

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Somehow, some way the NBA had the foresight to schedule a play-in tournament to win the last two playoff berths in the Western Conference. It starts tonight as the Phoenix Suns play the Dallas Mavericks in the Big D.

When was the last time three teams were basically tied for two playoff spots going into the final few games? Even more rare, when have those teams been scheduled for a round-robin play-in tournament?

The Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies all play each other in two of each team's last three games - the first of which is tonight when the Suns face the Mavericks in Dallas.

I will leave the details of the playoff scenarios for Scott Howard this morning. He can break down the possibilities while fans wallow in anger and depression over losing to the league's best team for the past 18 years on their home court last night.

Today is a new day.

And let me be the first to report that there is a 99.9999999999% chance Goran Dragic will start alongside Eric Bledsoe against Dallas.

No, I don't have any new news. But knowing how competitive Dragic and coach Hornacek are, and how important this game is to the season, I expect Dragic to be in the lineup unless his foot snaps off entirely. And even then, I can see him wheeling out the Rolleraid and still putting up 30 on the Mavs.

The Opponent - The Mavericks

While the Phoenix Suns are getting much of the publicity from coming out of no where this season, you have to tip your cap to the Dallas Mavericks for being able to do much the same thing.

Both teams saw their successful runs dismantled by age, trades and free agency in recent years. But while the Suns finally went young, the Mavericks decided to ride the vet-heavy train as long as Dirk Nowtizki is still around the conduct it.

The Suns patchworked a veteran roster together while Steve Nash and Grant Hill rode into the sunset, just as the Mavs are doing for Dirk. The difference is that (a) Dirk is still really, really, really good and (b) the veterans Dallas signed are better than the one the Suns signed.

Dallas surrounded Dirk with two guards who can run a great offense around him - Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. While I'd argue those two are overpaid, they have helped the Mavs put up more wins this season than anyone anticipated. Veterand Sam Dalembert has been an unexpected anchor in the middle of late as well.

Dallas still can't defend very well, and as I wrote the other day they have not beaten good teams over the past couple of months (5-8 against playoff-seeded Western conference teams over their last 26 total games now).

But they still have Dirk, and they have a leg up on their counterparts in this playoff chase with one more win (48) and only needing to beat one of the Suns or Grizzlies to make the playoffs. Good on the Mavs. Here's hoping that win comes over the Grizzlies, who they are 3-0 against this season.

The Suns

What a rollercoaster!

As Lon Babby likes to say, and Steve Nash said before him (in the 2006 playoffs), "After every win, it's like we're never going to lose again. And after every loss, it's like we're never going to win again."

Going into the second half against the Spurs last night, leading by 13 without Dragic, it appeared the Suns might just run the table on the rest of the season. That's how good they'd been playing by getting up 17 on the Clippers (before losing to Chris Paul's heroics), pasting the Trailblazers, outlasting the Thunder and taking care of business against the Pelicans.

But those last two quarters were dreadful. The Spurs outscored the Suns by 21, and now many of us wonder if the Suns' clock might have suddenly struck midnight and the Mavs and Grizz might embarrass the Suns over the next three days.

Young playmaker Eric Bledsoe nearly had a triple double (30 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) but committed big turnovers at inopportune times, showing he's not fully mature yet and really needs the Dragon at his side in these tight moments. After the game, Bledsoe was derided as selfish by some, highlighted by an assist attempt of all things. Such is the life of a fan trying to lay blame somewhere, anywhere after a tough loss.

What a ride, huh?

With 47 wins, the Suns have already won more games than any Suns team in four years and the future is brighter than it's been in almost a decade.

After the Suns lost the game at home against the Clippers, it appeared the writing was on the wall back then (9 long days ago). If you can't hold a 17-point lead at home, you're not a playoff team. But then the Blazers and Thunder found out the hard way the Suns season was NOT over yet.

Let's hope the Mavericks and Grizzlies see the desperate Suns again.

The Stats


The Lineups


Key Match-Up

The obvious match-up is to point to Dirk vs. anyone who's going to guard him, or with Dragic/Bledsoe vs. Ellis/Calderon, but I'm going to switch it up here.

All of those guys will get their points, rebounds, assists tonight. The difference in the game will be the supporting players. Just like last night against the Spurs, it's all about who steps up from the shadows.

My matchup to watch is the battle of high-energy small forwards - Shawn Marion and P.J. Tucker - and the battle of microwave shooters off the bench - Vince Carter and Gerald Green.

If Marion and Carter outplay Tucker and Green, the Suns are going to have a really tough time winning the game, and vice versa.

Both Marion and Carter are former Suns who love to run it in the Suns faces that they were let go so unceremoniously. This is the perfect opportunity to lay it on the Suns by cementing their playoff spot and effectively knocking the Suns out at the same time. Both players are on their last legs - Carter is 92 years old while Marion is approaching 100 - so this may be their last chance to do serious damage to their former team.

The Prediction

In the Suns' favor, Dallas is 16-10 since the All-Star break have lost 8 of their last 13 against West playoff teams. They score a lot of points at home, but give up a lot of points too.

The Suns are 17-11 since the break and have won 10 of their last 15 against Western playoff seeded teams.

But hurting the Suns is that Dallas is on their home floor and needs the win almost as bad as the Suns do. Dallas only needs to split their last two games to guarantee a playoff berth, but doing it on their home floor is a lot easier than on the road (in Memphis).

Expect a barn burner. The Suns and Mavs will fight tooth and nail, dive for every loose ball and will win on who makes the most hero shots.

The Suns sent a message early with an electric energy level, but the Spurs sent one late by closing out the game and making Phoenix look more like the team that ran out of gas after its second game in two nights...

The Suns controlled the tip and it took Gerald Green all of seven seconds to draw first blood with a driving layup. The majority of the first quarter continued that theme.

After the Spurs took a 9-7 lead Phoenix erupted for a 28-5 run incited by catalysts Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green. The Spurs looked like they were stuck in quicksand and the Suns were nearly giving me vertigo from the way they were running circles around their opponents. It was easy to discern that the Suns plan was to play frenetically and they were executing that plan like a team possessed.

I would have to imagine the Spurs fans in attendance were stunned because I know I was... 28-5 runs tend to have that effect.

Despite being staggered the Spurs managed to regain their composure enough to close on a 7-0 run of their own and pull to within 37-24 to end the first quarter. The Spurs escaped the first quarter in better shape than they could have been and appeared poised to take advantage of their good fortune. In typical Spurs fashion, the Spurs did Spurs things until suddenly the Suns were calling a timeout to stop their own bleeding as their bloated lead had been whittled down to single digits (41-32).

Any night the Suns play it's a pretty safe bet to save one of those SportsCenter top 10 spots for Gerald Green's amazing antics. Tonight's double pump dump was thrown down with 1:05 to go in the second quarter. Danny Green was doing his best to not be outgreened by carrying his reeling squad and keeping them within striking distance. He poured in 11 in the second quarter and 19 in the half.

There was some serious Green on Green action going on here.

Game time decision Tony Parker managed just 4 points on 2-7 shooting in the half.

And there was Eric Bledsoe. Sometimes he is scary fast. He drew a breakaway foul when he jumped a pass lane with Patty Mills barely being able to do anything but instinctually flail after him as he blew past. Eric had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in the first half.

San Antonio showed early in the third quarter that they weren't going anywhere. If the Suns wanted this they were going to have to earn it.

That Danny Green guy (the lesser Green) managed to knock down a four point play early in the third... It was his fifth three and gave him 23 points, one below his season high, with plenty of basketball left to play.

Gerald returned fire with a step back three of his own and then got to the free throw line to push the Suns back up by 11 (72-61) after a Spurs surge cut their lead to six. The Spurs just kept pushing, though, and Green (Danny) hit another three a few moments later to pull San Antonio back within four (72-68).

The Greens were hoisting it up without compunction.

Amidst the Greenfest Tony Parker, who had been conspicuously quiet in the first half, was able to pour in 14 points of his own in the first six minutes of the period.

That Spurs crowd that was stunned earlier was now really, really loud.

Marco Belinelli hit a jumper with 2:45 left in the third and the Spurs had climbed all the way back up the mountain. They now led the Suns 79-78. The final tally on the carnage in the third quarter was 37-19 in favor of the bad guys. Right now the Suns were on the wrong side of a game of huge swings.

Luckily, the Spurs momentum didn't carry over from the third quarter to the fourth and the Suns were able to regain their footing. Markieff Morris got into the flow of the game and scored six straight for Phoenix as they briefly took back the lead. Things ping-ponged around for a few minutes as Kawhi Leonard did some damage for the Spurs before a ginormous Danny Green (the lesser Green?) three gave the Spurs a 106-100 lead with 1:59 to go.

Eric Bledsoe beasted through the lane for an emphatic slam dunk on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to four, but the Suns couldn't creep any closer. Gerald Green and Channing Frye both got clean looks from three that would have cut the lead to one but couldn't connect. Bledsoe had an open path to the basket on the latter of those and probably should have taken the two to make it a one possession game.

But he didn't.

In fact, the only blemishes on Bledsoe's career night (30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists) were his seven turnovers and questionable decision making down the stretch.

But this night was more about how well the Spurs played coming back from a huge deficit than it was about the Suns squandering a big lead and a huge opportunity.

The Spurs are just really, really good and Danny Green's career high 33 points was just a little too much tonight.

The Suns will need to shake this one off and hope that Goran is ready to play tomorrow night, because in this crazy race to the finish line the Suns just got jumped by the Mavericks and Grizzlies and now sit in ninth with just three games to go.

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