Stretch Drive and the playoffs

As Alex has already stated, the Phoenix Suns have a very strong chance of making the playoffs.  The Suns have changed things around since that debacle in Denver as they are 17-7 since then and their defense has improved drastically. You guys know the story, the Suns went from historically bad defensive team to a top five defensive team in the past few weeks. People say defense wins championships, but what good is defense if your offense isn't good either? Thankfully, the Suns are fourth in the league in ppg at 105.1. Now keep in mind, the Suns are still without a true franchise player (Beyond Nash, but I've never considered Nash as the go to guy on our team).

Anyway, the Suns went from cast of clowns earlier in the season to a band of brothers since National season turnaround day on January 28th. The constant to this formula has been Marcin Gortat; he ripped into Gentry's schematics and the effort of the players on this team on the defensive end. Gortathimself has been solid on the defensive end as well as on the offensive end. In 27 mpg with the Suns he is averaging 11.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.1 Bpg, 74% FT!! and 57% from the field. The Suns found the size they needed and for the first time since the birth of this franchise, the Suns have skill, length, and size. The Suns had the tools at the beginning of the season to be a fantastic defensive team, but have since improved on that defensive potential. They have Great perimeter defenders in Childress, Pietrus, Dudley and Hill, and they have Great low post defenders in Lopez, Gortat, and Frye. Then the Suns have guys with awful defensive reputations, but at least two of them make up for their defensive inefficienciesin Brooks and Nash; Warrick is on a island by himself defensively and offensively.

The wildcard here is obviously Vince Carter, but I'll touch up on that later. The playoffs are a much different animal than the regular season. The pace slows down and more halfcourt sets are run; teams like to grind it out rather than run the break. As we saw teh Suns do last season, they were one of the BEST defensive teams during the playoffs and were able to grind out victories against grind it out teams in San Antonio and Portland. Luckily for the Suns, they have two guys with Championship experience in Gortat and Pietrus, and beyond that everyone except Childress, Brooks, and Warrick have made it to the Conference Finals. Unlike last season wherein almost everyone except for Nash and Amar'e had true playoff experience. This kind of inexperience caused inconsistency amongst players like Frye, Dragic and even Dudley. In addition to having playoff experience the guys playing on this team are proven players come playoff time!

                                                                      No more of this!!

Brooks spent a good seven game series beating the crap out of the Lakers and Derek Fisher in 2009,

Gortat proved himself against Philly when he was filling in for Howard,


Pietrus has proven that he can guard people on the big stage,

And if I remember correctly, Josh Childress might have been in charge of guarding Ray allen or he could have been guarding Paul Pierce in the 2008 Playoffs (Either way, he was integral for the Hawks and making that a series).  Clearly, the Phoenix Suns are a very talented defensive team and have the talent needed to make a playoff push, and with a little bit of luck, make a run in the postseason; after all, this is the best suited Suns team for playoff style basketball

Now we look at the offense and this is where Vince Carter comes under the magnifying glass. The Suns tarded away their leading scorer in Jrich and the guy they designated to replace him has been awful. But it certainly isnt for a lack of trying, because Carter acknowledges that he has been a travesty on the court. In the last game before the ASG against Dallas, you could see Carter attacking the basket and trying to make plays. He wasn't shying away from contact, but he just didn't have the lift necessary to make that classic Vince Carter imprint on a game. In fact, he hasn't been the same since a 29 point outing in MSG. Regardless, I still feel that Carter is the key to a playoff push because of his talent level. If he can regain his form and get to the foul line even ocassionally, he would put the Suns in a good position. Nash, Hill, and Carter were the driving forces in that January win against Portland; if Carter can do something like that and be average defensively, the Suns would benefit a lot. A healthy, athletic Carter, even in his mid thirties, is a better player than Manu Ginobli, Wes Matthews, or even an O.J Mayo.

But enough about Carter. The Phoenix Suns have made their niche on the offensive side of the ball; with a speedy backup point guard who has miraculously become a fantastic facilitator (He is averaging the same amount of assists in PHX as he was in Houston, except he is doing it in considerably less time out there on the floor!); he is like the Tazmanian Devil. Not only has he re-found his touch, but has improved his touch around the rim again. Then you look over to Channing Frye and you see an Ice Cold MothaFucka! This guy has surged during this road trip and has molded his game perfectly for the Suns' demands. Every player on this team makes a solid offensive contribution, and they don't even have to score to do so. This system relies on spacing, something that pietrus provides, and with a point guard like Nash, someone that can roll and finish like Gortat and Warrick. (Lopez is a work in progress).

The Suns have a surging team and they need to keep playing with a sense of urgency to make a nice playoff push. Offensive ranking : 5th Defensive Ranking: 26th; remember that the Suns were last in ppg allowed by a LARGE margin/historically bad ppg allowed. Even if they are first for the remainder of the season, the highest they can get around 22nd!

So there you have it folks!

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