So yea...the playoff race seems to be over for our Phoenix Suns. Take a look at the Western Conference Standings and you'll see that with 11 games remaining in the Suns season they are 3 games out of the 8 spot in the West and 3 might as well be 4 since Memphis owns the season series tiebreaker. I would have said the Suns best shot at making the playoffs would be to pass the Hornets but that ship seemed to sail last night.
That game last night and the triple OT loss to the Lakers on Tuesday don't appear terrible on their face but they are still killer losses. Why you ask? Well as my boy East Bay Ray pointed out the other day - the time for moral victories has passed. If you're looking for a reason the time has passed then look no further than this set of games.
Last year Seth wrote an article about 5 games the Suns shoulda coulda won - this season has been a bit different. I've got 11. Yup - it's like that. And I'm even leaving out the last two losses.
1) November 3rd - Spurs 112 Suns 110
This was a time when nobody really though the Spurs were going to wind up as a beast in the Western Conference. Hell, most people thought they were the same ol' team that the Suns swept away in 4 games in the 2010 playoffs.
The Suns were 1-2 at the time and although they fell behind by as many as 11 points in the middle of the third quarter they swung the game on its head in the 4th. A Jason Richardson bucket with 3:30 to go in the game put the Suns up 106-103 and in relatively good shape. But as would become the MO of this team - they couldn't close.
San Antonio didn't score on their next two possessions but all the Suns got out of that was a desperate three point attempt by J-Rich and a missed jumper from Steve Nash. After a pair of Antonio McDyess free throws, Richardson missed another shot and then Richard Jefferson resumed his strange three point barrage with his FOURTH in the quarter to give the Spurs a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
All in all the Suns shot 2/10 down the stretch and the two were after the game was basically in hand. Richard Jefferson's 28 points were by far a season high (still) and was one of only 3 20 point games for him this season.
2) November 24th, Bulls 123 Suns 115 (2OT)
When Chicago came to town in November they weren't the Eastern Conference monster they are right now. In fact they were only 7-5 on the season and were on the nasty end of a back to back after getting in from playing the Lakers. That probably helps to explain the Suns jumping all over them in the first quarter - amassing a 23 point lead with 6 seconds left in the first quarter.
The lead stayed up at 19 until the 2:11 mark of the 2nd quarter when the Suns invited Chicago back in. The Bulls closed the lead to 12 by half time and that's where it stood heading into the 4th quarter. Then it was collapse time. With the Suns lead down to 5 with 2:19 left, James Johnson hit a three pointer (which is one of only FOUR this season) and added another basket to tie. Steve Nash and Derrick Rose swapped free throws and then Grant Hill missed a potential game winner to send us to OT.
In the overtime period the Suns opened up a 3 point lead with 12 seconds to go. On the Bulls possession, Rose missed a three but Joakim Noah followed it to slice the lead back to one. Jason Richardson made only 1 of his two free throws which allowed Rose to attack the basket instead of attempt a three. An easy layup for Rose had us bound for a second OT which the Bulls dominated. Loss.
3) December 7th, Blazers 106 Suns 99
Of all the Portland losses this year I'll call this one the worst. After a mostly back and forth game, the Suns were able to take a 6 point lead into the 4th quarter. On the 2nd possession of the 4th, Jared Dudley drilled a three to put the Suns up 9 with 11:30 left in the game. That was your peak.
In the first game that I remember Goran Dragic just looking incredibly lost in, he came in at the beginning of the 4th and committed 2 turnovers (travel and offensive foul) and committed another foul before being yanked after just 2:45 of playing time. By the time Nash came back the game was tied.
Phoenix forged back ahead by 3 with 6:56 left but Portland finished on a 24-14 run - buoyed by 14 free throw attempts - to turn away the Suns. Jason Richardson was invisible in the game, scoring just 6 points on 3/8 shooting in 24 minutes. Also Earl Barron started. Comedy.
4) December 8th, Grizzlies 104 Suns 98 (OT)
The night after the Suns tough loss in Portland they welcomed a rested Grizzlies team to town. The Grizz probably had revenge on their minds when the Suns stole a game from them in November and it showed when they took a 14 point lead into the 4th quarter.
In one of the rare games where the Suns bench was working, the Suns came storming back. My favorite Phoenix Suns of All-Time - Hedo Turkoglu scored 10 points in the period including an icy three pointer with 6 seconds left to put the Suns up 3.
Alvin Gentry opted to have the team intentionally foul Mike Conley who went to the line and intentionally missed the second free throw after making the first. Channing Frye snagged the rebound and with the Suns up 2 with 3 seconds left we were dunzo...right? Unfortunately Aaron Nelson had yet to inject Frye with Human Clutch Hormones yet and he missed one of two. Then Rudy Gay did this:
Phoenix looked gassed in the overtime period and never lead. As per usual, Zach Randolph basically murdered the Suns with 34 points (15/19) and 17 rebounds.
5) December 26th, Clippers 108 Suns 103
Yes the Suns were breaking in a couple new players and still without Vince Carter, and yes the Clippers had won three of their last 4 games - but good lord you cannot lose to the Clippers and not have it mentioned on this list.
Quite possibly the most uninspired first quarter effort of the season saw the Suns trail the Donald Sterling's by 15 after 1. By the third quarter the Suns had chipped the lead down to just 1 and in Clipper fashion you'd expect them to just fade off into Bolivian.
But they didn't - in fact they restored the lead back to 10 with 3:45 left. Mickael Pietrus scored 10 points down the stretch and even had the lead down to 1 again but his turnover with the Suns down 3 and 9 seconds left sealed the victory for LAC.
6) January 2nd, Kings 94 Suns 89
This may be the biggest WTF loss in a season of WTF losses. Sacramento was coming off a game the previous night and for most of the game the Suns were doing what they usually do to the Kings - which is bat them around like a cat toy. Sure Sacramento had the lead down to 1 at a point in the second quarter but they were mainly there for LOLZ.
When the Suns extended the lead to 87-75 on a Vinsane three pointer and Grant Hill dunk with 5:50 left it looked like it was time to say good night sweet prince for the Kings. But apparently the Suns had met some sort of basket making quota for the night.
In the last 5:50 of the game the Suns managed to score exactly 2 points against a team that basically plays defense with a matadors outfit on. The Suns shot 1/8 down the stretch while the Kings hit 7 of their 10 attempts. Ball game, son.
Offensive zero of the game was Mickael Pietrus who played 35 minutes and hit just 1 of his 9 three pointers. Channing Frye also brought it down to suck town with a 1/7 performance in 18 minutes.
7) January 22nd, Pistons 75 Suns 74
Even when the Suns were playing like hot, steaming garbage in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in December they still managed to beat Detroit handily when they came to Phoenix. Thus when the Suns came to Detroit on a 5 game winning streak it stood to follow that they would still be able to win going away. Particularly against a Detroit team that has played New Jersey the previous night.
Though the Suns had slogged their way through a 38-38 half they took control of the game with a 23-11 third quarter spread. The lead was expanded to as much as 15 when Pietrus hit a three with 9:04 left in the game. But obviously this game wouldn't be on the list without a debilitating collapse - and a debilitating collapse there was!
From that point on the Suns shot 2/13 and saw the Pistons dig completely out of that 15 point deficit and take a 4 point lead of their own. Channing Frye hit a meaningless three with 1 second remaining but it was probably his 2/12 three point shooting performance for the game that had the Suns in that position in the first place.
8) February 4th, Thunder 111 Suns 107
Can I just call this one the Vince Carter game and be done with it? Vince was the reason the Suns were able to build a 7 point lead going into the 4th quarter (he put up 15 in the first quarter alone) but his 1/7 shooting in the final period was probably also the reason they lost.
Seriously, this game was all Vince for better and for worse.
Vince's one make of the quarter with 5:28 left gave the Suns a 4 point lead and then they and the referee crew just came apart at the seams. With the Suns lead down to 2 and the ball with Oklahoma City, Grant Hill seemingly played great defense on Kevin Durant and despite a pretty obvious travel by Durant, Hill was called for a foul. Hill and Nash went berserk and received technical fouls which allowed OKC to tie.
The rest of the game was kind of a blur but Vince Carter missed 4 shots in the last 2:06 and the Thunder eased into a win.
9) February 13th, Kings 113 Suns 108
It's the Kings - again. The way this game actually played out wasn't nearly as egregious as the January gag job but this one was at home and the Suns had won 6 of 7 (with the only loss being the OKC game right above this) coming in.
Sacramento was again on the bad end of a back to back and this time they were without DeMarcus Cousins who had engaged in fisticuffs with a teammate on the team plane. Notwithstanding those factors and a 5 game losing streak the Kings overcame a 7 point halftime deficit to beat the Suns and ruin my Sunday evening.
Vince Carter sucked in the game to the tune of 3/10 with 7 points. He also managed to only add 1 rebound and no assists in 15 minutes of play. The fact that he played just 15 minutes makes his -16 even more impressive in a game in which the next worse +/- was Mickael Pietrus' -10.
10) March 6th, Thunder 122 Suns 118
Hard to really throw this one of the list since the Thunder are quite good but this easily could have swung to a win. On a night where Grant Hill swallowed up Kevin Durant (3/14) and Vince Carter went for 29 you'd think the Suns would have a great shot to reign victorious - and you'd almost be right.
This game stayed close most of the night with neither team really able to gain separation. The Suns led by 5 going into the 4th quarter but the Thunder opened on a 16-4 run to take a 7 point lead for themselves.
Phoenix rallied back to draw within 3 with just 9 seconds left on the clock and Vince Carter drained a game tying shot to even the score. After some more great Hill on Durant defense it was OT time.
In the OT period the Suns managed to take a 2 point lead with 1:25 left on another Carter three pointer but the exchange that followed is where I feel like they went array. Marcin Gortat swatted a Russell Westbrook layup and the Suns had possession up 2 with less than a minute to go. Grant Hill attempted and missed a three pointer and although he was open I hate to have the guy who shot 0/6 and was exhausted from chasing Durant taking the shot. James Harden threw down a slam in transition and a phantom foul call on Steve Nash (thanks Billy Kennedy!) put OKC up 1.
Hill again was subpar on offense as he turned the ball over and Oklahoma City hit a free throw on the other end to give themselves a 2 point lead. In a moment where the basketball gods seemingly had mercy on the Suns, Carter was fouled on a three point attempt with 17 seconds remaining but he managed to miss 2 of 3. It got dark in my house after that.
11) March 14th, Rockets 95 Suns 93
I'll be straight up on this one - the Rockets dominated basically the entire game. Phoenix didn't have Steve Nash, Aaron Brooks was awful in his place, and Houston led by as many as 14 late in the third quarter. Fortunately for the Suns, Josh Childress and Zabian Dowdell brought their big boy pants and helped lead a furious rally in the 4th quarter.
The Suns managed to tie the game on a Childress jumper with 1:21 left and after a series of missed shots, turnovers, free throws, and fouls on both ends, Houston led by 2 with 10 seconds left. Enter the Dudley.
Zabian Dowdell drove the lane with just seconds remaining and kicked to a wide open Jared Dudley at the left corner. Though this was pretty much the picture perfect JMZ three point attempt, he missed, and the Rockets grabbed the rebound to win the game. Hard to pin the game on one play but I mean - let's call a spade a spade.
Not to play the what-if game too hard, but if the Suns even swung 4-7 off of that instead of 0-11 (which isn't too far a stretch) then they'd be 40-31 right now and a full game up in the 8 spot. Fun stuff huh? And don't start in with any butterfly effect crap because this is purely for entertainment purposes.
Wasn't that an enjoyable trip down memory lane? You can thank me later.
Hugs and kisses always,