At 42 and 26 the Suns are half-game back from the Thunder and a game and a half back from the Jazz...But let's take a trip in the Hot Tub Time Machine and play the favorite game of sports fans everywhere...The What If Game.
What If the Suns had won five more games this season?
They would be 47 and 21 which would be good enough for 2nd place in the West. And before you go all "every team can find five games they shoulda coulda won" on me - stop. This is our What If game, they can play their own if they want.
Here's the five games the Suns shoulda coulda won:
1: Suns vs Knicks, December 1, 2009
You will recall the Suns going 14 and 3 to start the season and rolling into New York feeling pretty pretty good about themselves. Coming off a comfortable win on Sunday in Toronto, the Suns got to Phoenix in the early evening and then had a full day off in NEW YORK CITY, before facing Mike D'Antoni's mustache on Tuesday.
No one (as far as I know) ever came out and said it, but speculation is the Suns had a bit too much fun in the Big Apple and they certainly overlooked the 3 and 14 Knicks. From this loss, the Suns would begin a two month run of sub .500 basketball but there was good news to come out of this game...Alando Tucker scored 14 points in garbage time.
2. Suns vs Trail Blazers, December 18, 2009
This game starts a trend of blown leads. The Suns were up 13 going into the fourth quarter before Jerryd Bayless (who can't spell his name right, but can sure score the ball) went nuts. This was also the 17th straight TNT loss for the Suns. I suppose given that streak it was inevitable that the Suns lost this game, and they were playing without Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa, but the Blazers were missing about 1/3rd of their roster so that's really no excuse.
The bottom line is that the Suns were playing uninspired basketball at that point and this loss was a result. Do you think the March 2010 version of the Phoenix Suns blows a 13 point fourth quarter lead? Let's hope not.
3. Suns vs Warriors, December 26, 2009
Yes, this was the second of a back-to-back but the first of the back-to-back was a Christmas Day drubbing of the Clippers that only took about 3 quarters of effort. The bottom line is that Suns should have beaten the Warriors and because they weren't playing much defense at that point in the season, they didn't.
After a Jared Dudley 3, the Suns were again only down two, 123-121. They managed a stop and a Stoudemire jam brought the game to a deadlock at 123. But the Suns, true to form, tonight couldn't stop the opposition. Baskets were traded, turnovers were made, and suddenly the Warriors stood atop this trash heap of a game.
4. Suns vs Pacers, January 13, 2010
The fact that this game is presented fourth proves that the list was created based on chronological order and not based on something more subjective like...order of pain. Because this loss was clearly the worse of the season.
Dropping a 24-point third quarter lead to the Pacers is unacceptable. Getting beat by Mike Dunleavy scoring 11 straight points is embarrassing. And let's not forget that the Suns allowed the Pacers to hang 70 second-half points on their heads.
This loss got the Suns off to an 0 and 4 road trip which was the low point of the season. By far.
I couldn't decide. Both had bright spots and both were clearly winnable games.
In Atlanta coming off the Indiana Smack Down, the Suns actually played very good basketball against a very good team. Then Jamal Crawford happened. Painful. A gut punch was how Coach Gentry described it.
The Bobcats game had its moments but it came down to late game execution. After being held to only 15 fourth quarter points by a stingy Charlotte defense, the Suns were up 3 with 24 seconds and gave up a three to Stephen Jackson and then failed to get a shot off to win the game at the buzzer. Overtime was a disaster.
The good news, this game was the wake-up call the team needed. The Suns decided they had enough of losing and from this point forward have gone 16 and 5 since.
Sorry to depress you the morning after scoring 152 points. You can now return to your ecstatic gloating.