Anthony Davis missed tonight's game for the struggling Pelicans, and it looked like the Suns had a chance to pull away early as New Orleans scored only 14 first quarter points. Then the Suns allowed the Pelicans to win the second and fourth quarters behind surprisingly strong bench play, and the Suns had to sweat it out in the end before finally vanquishing their shorthanded foes.

Tonight's game won't be sent to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for display. An injured and overmatched New Orleans Pelicans team gave the Suns all they could handle, as the Suns looked discombobulated and short on energy for most of the game before finally securing the critical 94-88 win.

Eric Bledsoe was scoreless until nearly midway through the third quarter before exploding for 12 points in the quarter, ending up with 16 points and 6 assists. Gerald Green continued his scorching play with 21, and Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker chipped in 20 and 15, respectively.

This game was a lot more difficult than it should have been for the Suns. New Orleans is 13 games below .500, had lost 5 straight going into tonight's game, and played without rising star Anthony Davis, out with a back injury. Nevertheless, the Suns struggled through a terrible second quarter, losing that period 32-24, and then trailing with 88-87 with 1:56 remaining in the game before the Suns sealed it with a 7-0 run.

The Pelicans were led by their bench, and strong performances from Jeff Withey, Anthony Morrow, Luke Babbitt and Austin Rivers. That isn't exactly a murderer's row there, but the Suns played an uneven game and, outside of Green, none of the Phoenix bench players could find a rhythm, nor could Channing Frye (4 points on 2-8 shooting).

With the win, the Suns maintain their 1 game lead on the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff race. In the end, we won't remember this game for anything but the W, and that's enough. A loss tonight would have been catastrophic, and the Suns avoided that.

We can choose to see it that they mailed in tonight's performance, and that is inexcusable for a team in the Suns must-win position. Or we could see it that the Suns had an off night, yet still found a way to pull out the crucial win in the end, making all the plays down the stretch in that 7-0 to end the game.

Unfortunately, the Miami Heat were not able to help the Suns, losing to the Grizzlies 107-102, so the Suns failed to gain a game in the playoff race.

PHOENIX — It’s pretty simple for the Phoenix Suns. Win, and go to the playoffs. Somehow, that’s made Jeff Hornacek’s team find itself playing the best basketball of the year....

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Time: 5 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ (Game switched from FSAZ+) PHOENIX — “It’s us against the world.” That, said forward Channing Frye, is the mindset of the Phoenix Suns as they enter...

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Dallas takes care of business and the stretch run begins.

Can you guys believe that one week from tonight the NBA's regular season ends?  Really no reason to get all weepy now though as the next 8 nights are probably going to be ridiculous night after ridiculous night.

So lets all dig in, band together and fly wildly and aimlessly towards our goal like an Ish Smith three point attempt.

Tuesday April 8th Key Western Conference Results:

Dallas Mavericks 95 Utah Jazz 83 (Recap) - Dallas made 94.1% of their shots in the 1st quarter (16/17) on their way to a 39-25 lead and never looked back.  Dirk Nowitzki shockingly lead the Mavericks with 21 points (on 9/11 shooting) and in the process passed Oscar Robertson for 10th on the NBA's all-time scoring list - which is insane.  5 other Mavericks scored in double figures - including the apparently flame retardant Vince Carter who scored 13.

The Mavs now have just three games remaining in their season starting with the Tony Parker-less Spurs on Thursday.  At least the Jazz will no longer figure in the playoff race.

Current Western Conference Standings:

1.San Antonio
60 18 .769 - 8-2 LOST 1
2. Oklahoma City
56 21 .727 3.5
7-3 WON 1
3. LA Clippers
55 23 .705 5 7-3 WON 1
4. Houston 52 25 .675 7.5 7-3 WON 3
5. Portland
50 28 .641 10 6-4 WON 1
6. Golden State
48 29 .623 11,5 7-3 WON 2
7. Dallas
48 31 .608 12.5 7-3 WON 4
46 31 .597 13.5
8-2 WON 2
- Memphis
45 32 .584 14.5 5-5 LOST 1

Wednesday April 9th Western Conference Games of Significance:

Suns @ Pelicans - Yes it's a road game, and yes the Pelicans have one of the 10 best players in the NBA, but no - there is no excuse for the Suns losing this game.  Eric Gordon continues to be out for New Orleans and considering that he had 21 points on 7/10 shooting the last time our teams played I'm booking this as a good thing.  As for the aforementioned top 10 player in the NBA - he's been dealing with back spasms and Monty Williams seemed to acknowledge he wasn't his normal self in the Pelicans last game.

"He's just trying to do everything he can to help his team," Williams said. "(Sunday) was no different, that's why we love him. He doesn't want to let anybody down.

Reports suggest Davis will play through the pain tonight but as a concerned citizen I would suggest he go ahead and take the night off.

Heat @ Grizzlies -  Unlike many people, I actually really like the Miami Heat.  I credit it to such a ridiculous amount of hate being thrown the way of LeBron James - a once in a generation player - that I can't help but adopt the contrarian position.  But even if you hate the Heat you sure as hell better be rooting for them tonight.  After this game Memphis has walk over dates with the 76ers and Lakers before coming to the Valley next Monday.  If Memphis loses to Miami and the Suns take care of all Pelican related business, the Suns will have a 2 game lead with 4 to play.

Dwayne Wade probably remains out for the Heat but hopefully they come in motivated as their lead on Indiana for the top seed in the East is just half a game after Miami's loss to Brooklyn last night.

The Phoenix Suns (46-31) hope to hold onto their precarious, 1 game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for the #8 playoff seed tonight, facing a banged up Pelicans squad (32-45) in New Orleans. The Pelicans are languishing through a five game losing streak, and have dropped all three of their contests versus the Suns this season. Can the Suns enjoy a cool, refreshing win at Smoothie King Center tonight? Or will they be left with a brain freeze?

With five games remaining and a razor-thin margin for error to secure one of the final playoff spots in the West, the Suns can't afford to squander their opportunity tonight against a struggling Pelicans team which features blossoming superstar Anthony Davis and little else. Davis has been suffering back spasms recently, and is questionable to play, while Eric Gordon will definitely not play, likely out for the remainder of the season.

After a five game winning streak, with four of the wins over playoff teams (Clippers, Nets, Heat and Hawks), the Pelicans have taken a hard slide by losing their last five, and are starting to look like a team mailing it in for the balance of the season.

Injuries have taken a toll on their chances, as Gordon appears to have joined Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith as players who are now out for the season, while Davis has been playing, but not at 100%. When this season started, it was the Pelicans who were supposed to take a major step forward in the West rather than the Suns, but they have disappointed.

Meanwhile, the Suns have rounded into virtually full health since Eric Bledsoe's return as they make their final push towards a playoff spot. That the Suns are in this position with a roster that was picked by the vast majority of experts to be one of the worst teams in the league is a testament to the amazing offseason overhaul by GM Ryan McDonough, and masterful coaching performance by Jeff Hornacek.

McDonough and Hornacek are strong candidates for postseason honors, as are Gerald Green (Most Improved Player), Goran Dragic (All-NBA team) and Markieff Morris (6th Man of the Year). It has been that kind of a season for the Suns, unbelievable compared to last season's squad and expectations, yet it would leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth if this fantastic performance fell short of a playoff spot.

Some fun stats from this season's Suns so far:

  • Gerald Green leads the team with 192 converted 3 point shots, making them at a .398% clip.
  • Miles Plumlee has played 1856 minutes this season, after playing only 55 in his rookie season. He is the Suns' leader in D-Rating at 103.
  • Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are combining to average 38.1 points, 11.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.
  • Markieff Morris' eFG% has risen from .442 last season to .506 this season, while his points/36 minutes average has risen from 13.1 to 18.7, and his win shares/48 minutes from .044 to .145.
  • P.J. Tucker is second on the team (behind Dragic) with a .400 3-point %. He's made 72 3-point shots after having made only 22 in his NBA career before this season.

That's an impressive list, and isn't comprehensive in detailing all the Suns player improvement from last season. Phoenix figures to pad some of those offensive stats tonight versus a Pelicans teams which fields the 27th ranked defense in the league with a D-Rating of 110.1.

When the teams last played in late February, Dragic scored 40 points on only 21 FGAs, and the Morris twins combined for 33 in a 116-104 Suns win. Except to see more offensive fireworks from a Suns team that has scored 108, 109 and 122 in its three April games so far, all versus Western Conference playoff teams.

Projected lineups

PG: Eric Bledose vs. Brian Roberts
SG: Goran Dragic vs. Tyreke Evans
SF: P.J. Tucker vs. Darius Miller
PF: Channing Frye vs. Anthony Davis
C: Miles Plumlee vs. Greg Stiemsma

Key Pelicans reserves: Anthony Morrow, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu

In a tight playoff race, versus a poor opponent, this is a game the Suns need to win. They must come out with the urgency befitting the situation, and I expect they will. My forecast: Suns 115, Pelicans 99.

Note: All statistics cited courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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