It's been a rough patch for the Phoenix Suns, losers of 3 straight and 5 of 7 since the calendar turned to 2014. But how do they stack up agains the rest of their division and conference foes?
Los Angeles Clippers (26-13, 1st Pacific, 4th Conference) - The Clippers are 3-1 since losing starting point guard Chris Paul to a shoulder injury on January 3, and 5-1 on the new year. Darren Collison has filled in like a champ for Paul, averaging 18 points and 6 assists since the injury. Their latest victory was a 36 point beatdown of the Injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers. Collison will need to continue to perform at a high level if they want to hold off the...
Golden State Warriors (25-14, 2nd Pacific, 6th Conference) - The Dubs are rolling hard, winning 11 of their last 12 and 5 of 6 to kick off 2014. While the Splash Brothers might be the stars of the show, Andre Iguodala scored 22 in their most recent victory over the Boston Celtics. The Dubs are doing it with defense. With the third best defensive rating in the league, they're knocking on door of the Pacific Division lead.
Phoenix Suns (21-16, 3rd Pacific, 8th Conference) - Before Eric Bledsoe's injury, the Suns were flirting with being a Pacific Division contender. Without him, they're fighting for their 8th seeded lives. You know the story: 2-5 in January with 3 of those losses coming in the last 3 games, including an ugly one to the Knicks. I dare anyone to watch that game again. On the bright side, at least the Suns are doing better than the...
Los Angeles Lakers (14-24, 4th Pacific, 14th Conference) - This season has been an unmitigated disaster in Lakerland. A plague of injuries has descended on the Lakers. All 3 point guards that started the season with the Lakers are out with injuries. They dressed just 9 players for their most recent lost, in which they gave up 120 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They're 1-4 in 2014 and have dropped 11 of their last 12. But, hey! Kendall Marshall is putting up 13 points (on 44.8% FG and 41.4% 3FG) and 12 assists as a starter, so they've got that going for them.
Sacramento Kings (13-23, 5th Pacific, 15 Conference) - You've got to feel for Sacramento fans and Mayor Kevin Johnson. They moved mountains to keep the Kings in Sactown and they are rewarded with the 2nd worst team in the conference. Things are looking up though. The team is .500 in January and had won 3 in a row before getting drubbed by the Pacers, 116-92, last night. It's all about the future for this young squad and they've got a bright future (but probably not this season) with Isiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way.
The Rest of the West
At the top of the conference, the Spurs keep Spurring. Crack all the old jokes you want, the Spurs are laughing their way to a 5 game winning streak and the best record in the West. The Portland Trailblazers are nipping at their heels, trailing by only a game and a half. But one has to wonder if the upstart Blazers have what it takes to not get assimilated by the Borg-like Spurs. The other presumptive favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are biding their time until their star point guard returns from a knee injury (sound familiar?). January has been unkind to OKC, who are 3-4 this month. Nevertheless, the Thunder are hanging tough and only a half-game behind the Blazers in the west.
Perhaps more germane to the Suns' interests are the travails of the teams trailing them in the standings. After ringing in the New Year with their 8th loss in a row, the Nuggets seem to have finally figured things out, winning 5 of their last 6 to surge in to the 9th seed, 2 games behind Phoenix. Their continued success could imperil the Suns' playoff hopes, especially if the Suns continue to sink in the standings. And with the Minnesota Timberwolves seemingly unable to follow up a win with a win, the door is wide open for the Memphis Grizzlies to make a move. While Marc Gasol had a modest 12 points and 4 rebounds in his return, the Grizz were still able to knock off the Thunder in his first game back from a knee injury.
The sharks are circling the 8 seed and right now there's blood in the water, Bright Siders. Do you think the Suns can tread water long enough to rise above them? Or will a resurgent Nuggets team and newly whole Grizzlies squad commence with the feeding frenzy?