Golden State Warriors 106, Phoenix Suns 104 PHOENIX — Only once this season have the Phoenix Suns pulled off what any good NBA team might call a winning streak. The Suns are looking for a third...

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Think marcin can limbo?(AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Tonight your Phoenix Suns look for their 3rd victory in a row, while hoping to enter the All Star break with some sort of momentum for the second half of the season. The Suns enter tonight's game winners of two straight over the Lakers and Wizards, while the Warriors are enjoying a rare victory over a quality squad in the L.A. Clippers. Ekpe Udoh was the hero Monday night, starting in place of the disappointing Andris Biedrins, hitting for a career high 19 points.

The Golden State Warriors haven't won in Phoenix for 7 (seven) years. However, the Suns and Dubs have split the season series thus far, with the Bay City Rollers winning the last matchup on their home court. It was a typical Suns effort: start strong-waver-fight back-fade. While Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry were held in check, David Lee was huge, with 28 and 12 in 41 minutes. In the first matchup back in January, the Suns used a balanced attack to defeat the Warriors in the desert. And yes, Lee was out ill and the Suns outrebounded the Dubs 49-36 overall, with the Suns picking up 16 offensive boards.

Now at the halfway point of the season and the All Star break beginning tomorrow, the players and coaches are asessing the season thus far along with hopes for a second half run at the playoffs. Here's what some of the boys had to say recently:

Grant Hill (on 9 straight at home, 6 against squads with sub .500 records)

"You can go into the break feeling good about yourself. Things happen when you have some momentum. In spite of how we've played thus far, if we can get this win (Wednesday night) -- which is a very winnable game... we'll see what we can do when we get back...we did it a couple years ago. I've been on teams where you're rolling into the break and feeling good and get some confidence. You get re-energized, refocused and healthy. You get some rest and you're ready to go when you get back so it's a big game for us."

Channing Frye

"Like Steve (Nash) said, we're not talented enough to just cruise and turn it on and off. We have to play a certain way the whole game and get into a rhythm."

Steve Nash

"Obviously, it'd be nice to go on a three-game win streak after the (four-game) losing streak. Hopefully, we can come out of the break with those three wins and feel like we can turn the corner."

Michael Redd

"Coach has led the charge in being positive. He's consistent day in and day out as far as his mood. He's always upbeat. That plays big throughout the team. "

Quotes courtesy of AZCentral/Paul Coro

Playoff Probability

The Warriors and Suns have similar records and have some similar challenges in the Pacific Division. Both squads are in the negatives in scoring and rebounding differential. The Warriors do have the advantage in three point shooting and Dave Chappelle appearances, nevertheless, both teams are currently on the outside of the WC playoff race.

The geniuses over at Basketball-Reference have crunched the numbers to create a "Playoff Probability Report." The stat geeks ran 1000 simulations of the remainder of the season and came up with some interesting projections:

12 WARRIORS 28.7 37.3 .435 12-17 17-20 40--26 19-47 4.3% 0.1% 2.0%
13 SUNS 27.9 38.1 .422 14-19 14-19 36-30 21-45 2.0% 0.2% 1.7%

Here's what these numbers stand for:

•W and L are the average number of wins and losses, respectively, that the team had in the 1000 simulations.
•Current is the team's curent W-L record.
•Remain is the team's projected W-L record the remainder of the season.
•Best is the team's best W-L record in the 1000 iterations.
•Worst is the team's worst W-L record in the 1000 iterations.
•Playoffs is the percentage of times the team made the playoffs in the 1000 iterations.
•Division is the percentage of times the team won their division in the 1000 iterations.
•Top Seed is the percentage of times the team was the top seed in their conference in the 1000 iterations.
•Win Conf is the percentage of times the team won the conference playoffs in the 1000 iterations.
•Win Finals is the percentage of times the team won the NBA Finals in the 1000 iterations.
•Lottery is the percentage of time the team won the draft lottery in the 1000 iterations.

The Takeaways (all based on 1000 simulations)

  • The Suns best possible record will be 36-30, their worst, 21-45
  • The Suns projected record is 28-38
  • The Suns made the playoffs 2% of the time, and won the division 0.2% of the time.
  • The Suns won the lottery 1.7% of the time.

Happy joy, right? I guess not. I post these numbers partially out of fun, but we all know that the numbers don't always tell the whole story or all of the truth. That's why they play the game, folks.

Check for the game thread 30 minutes prior to game time.

Warriors vs Suns coverage

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Golden State Of Mind

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As we have well established by now, the fine folk at SB Nation Arizona compile a weekly power ranking of sorts of the Phoenix Suns players. Typically, the top spot is reserved for Steve Nash. In fact, I suspect that three years after he retires, Nash might still be in the top spot.

This week, Marcin Gortat returned to the role of second fiddle while Frye, Redd, Hill and Dudley round out the next four. Personally, I would have put Jared a bit higher but that's how these things go with power rankings.

Here's a link to the list so you can check them out and then come back and provide your own list/critique/recipe for fried avocado.

Phoenix Suns Player Thermometer, Week 8: Gortat Back To Polish Hammering - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
It was a week in which the Phoenix Suns got throttled by the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Lakers got throttled by the Phoenix Suns. The team also lost a back-to-back-to-back that was painful to watch. But, Marcin Gortat got some of his groove back and Channing Frye seems to have found some consistency. Also, Steve Nash distributed the ball like only Cap'n Nash can. As is the norm for this year's team, this week was a mixed bag.

Mahalo amigos

Alvin Gentry recently made an appearance on XTRA 910 with Bickley and MJ. The questions were pretty typical and the answers were, too. The good news is at least Gentry answered some more poignant questions or allowed his interviewers to ask some poignant questions as opposed to Mr. Babby, whose appearance on the show a couple of weeks ago was a waste of everyone's time.

Some interesting responses including the following:

  • The acknowlegement that the Suns are basically a 4 player squad:

"...Marcin (Gortat) is playing great. He’s really playing well. Steve is playing great, Grant (Hill) is doing a good job for us defensively, we’ve had some other guys like Jared Dudley step up..."

  • Discusses the Suns' achilles heel(s) (which, BTW is a much less problematic metaphor than talking about chinks in armor):

"I think we have to be consistent and have some consistency off our bench. If we do that we’ve been able to compete with most of the teams... We have not been able to finish games. We have to find a way to do that for 48 minutes. Not 32 minutes, 38 minutes, or 42 minutes, we’ve got to be able to do it for 48 and that’s where we’ve struggled a little bit..."

  • Of course the idea of trading Steve Nash (I believe was Bickley asking), which was promptly shut down by Gentry in the easiest manner possible, basically "it's not my job to make trades." HA!

Overall, Gentry didn't say a whole lot that we already hadn't heard before. I did find it interesting that while talking about the Suns inability to close teams out, he calls on the fans to help: "...not only to we need to step up, but your fans have to step up as well..."

Check out the audio and full transcript:

Alvin Gentry Refuses to Waste His Energy Thinking About the Future of Steve Nash

"...I know it’s been said that Kobe (Bryant) has this passion or hate for us but you know we’re not exactly in love with them either so the feeling is pretty mutual there. We haven’t had the success that we have had in the past against them but I thought our guys did a great job of battling against them last night and competing like crazy."

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Markieff brings a swagger and toughness not often seen in rookies.

When the Phoenix Suns selected Markieff Morris with the 13th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, many Suns fans groaned at the team again picking the "lesser brother" between Markieff and his brother Marcus.

Now, two months into the season, Morris has developed into the Suns most dependable bench player, averaging 8.1 points and 5.0 rebounds in 21 minutes per game and shooting an excellent 41% from behind the arc.

Morris was selected by a pool of the league's assistant coaches to play in the All-Star Weekend's Rising Stars game as he's the Suns first impact rookie since Amare Stoudemire in 2002. For the Suns to rebuild into a contender, it will take a lot more draft day successes like the Morris selection. Seeing him blossom into a solid player so quickly is an encouraging start.

Lesser brother? Hardly. Markieff Morris is the Phoenix Suns game-changer.

The widely used word to describe Markieff Morris after the draft was "tough". As Alvin Gentry said at the Suns news conference to introduce Morris: "We need a guy that can add some toughness to our team."

Morris credited his mother Thomasine for his toughness, and while Gentry might have been excited for Morris' physical toughness to bring to the Suns front line, Markieff seemed to be referring to mental toughness, resilience, work ethic and, as the matching tattoos of his and his brother Marcus read, "Family Over Everything."

That has been on display this season, as Morris has had a few bumps along the way, to be expected from any rookie, but works his way through them. He's had difficulties avoiding foul trouble and was uncomfortable playing with the starters early, but he continues to show improved consistency, bringing a lift and stability to a Suns second unit which desperately needs it.

Drafted for his interior defense, rebounding and toughness, Morris has also lived up to his billing as a top-notch 3-point shooter. This has been a tremendous help as Suns veteran stretch big man Channing Frye got off to a slow start. Morris has shown promise in his post game as well, though he still hasn't added much as a pick and roll finisher to his repertoire yet.

There is still plenty in Morris' offensive arsenal, though, as he's scored in double figures in 5 of the last 7 games, including 10 points and 8 rebounds versus the vaunted Lakers front line of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the Suns big win Sunday night.

The Suns haven't had a rookie play this well in nearly 10 years. That is a game-changer.

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