It is that time of the year again. Teams are preparing for the stretch run, jockeying for playoff seeding and homecourt advantage, fine tuning for the physically and mentally draining playoff series just around the corner. While it is the goal of most teams to be hitting their stride right about now, the Suns have hit something else. I believe the most accurately descriptive word would be wall.
Ten days ago, the Suns seemed primed to make a jump into the playoffs. They were a season high 4 games above .500. They had finally passed the Knicks in winning percentage. They were playing their best stretch of basketball for the season. Then came 4 losses in 5 games and injuries to Channing Frye and Steve Nash that left them with only slightly more mobility and dexterity than Robin Lopez.
The timing of these injuries, combined with the fact that the Suns squandered so many games earlier in the season while muddling through mismatched line-ups and incorporating new pieces, has put the Suns postseason hopes in serious jeopardy.
Now, not only must the Suns finish the season hotter than Frye was before his injury (tell me nobody else was thinking about the Frye Guy after Dudley missed that open 3), but they must also depend on one of the teams ahead of them to collapse like a folding chair. Which one of the Suns adversaries is the likeliest choke artist? Let's see....
Here are the remaining schedules for the Suns and their competition along with my likely best case scenario. Hopefully your best case is better than my best case.....
|Phoenix - 8 Home, 9 Away||Portand - 10 Home, 6 Away|
|@ New Orleans||W||Dallas||L|
|@LA Lakers||L||@ LA Lakers||L|
|New Orleans||W||San Antonio||W|
|Dallas||L||@ Oklahoma City||L|
|@ Sacramento||W||@ San Antonio||L|
|Oklahoma City||W||@ New Orleans||W|
|LA Clippers||W||Oklahoma City||L|
|@ San Antonio||L||Dallas||W|
|@ Chicago||L||Golden State||W|
|@ Minnesota||W||@ Utah||L|
|@ New Orleans||L||LA Lakers||L|
|Minnesota||W||@ Golden State||W|
|Memphis - 8 Home, 6 Away|
|New Orleans - 8 Home, 5 Away||@ New York||L|
|@ Utah||W||@ Boston||L|
|@ Phoenix||L||@ Chicago||L|
|@ LA Lakers||L||San Antonio||L|
|Memphis||W||@ New Orleans||L|
|@ Memphis||L||New Orleans||W|
|@ Dallas||L||@ LA Clippers||W|
The bad news is that the Suns arguably have the toughest remaining schedule of the 4 teams. The Suns are also dealing with key injuries which compromise their ability to go on a run. The bottom line is that the Suns will have to win a minimum of 11-12 games and count on one of these teams to collapse.
New Orleans has been playing the worst basketball of these 3 teams lately, but if they can finish 6-7 then it will be a monumental task for Phoenix to pass them. Portland probably has the toughest schedule of the 3 teams, but they hold the tiebreaker against Phoenix so if they just finish 8-8 the Suns would have to go 13-4 to pass them. Good luck with that. Memphis has some tough games coming up, but then finishes with the easiest 8 games (by far) and also owns the tiebreaker against Phoenix. Why is it that all of these low seeds own the tiebreaker against Phoenix?
The Suns best chance is to take all 3 from New Orleans and cheer for Memphis to take 2 from them as well. Second best would be that Portland tanks and loses 4 or 5 out of 6 during their toughest upcoming stretch. I don't think the Suns can catch Memphis. Not that I'm oozing confidence that the Suns can catch any of these teams while beset by health issues.
I think the picture I've painted delineates the situation fairly accurately. If anything I think that giving the Suns the benefit of the doubt in the way of 11 wins probably reveals my rooting interests and obscures my impartiality. What do you think? Do you see a path to victory that I've missed? Or a bridge to nowhere....