Phoenix Suns not about to start 'playoff watch'

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

While the Suns are clearly showing their playoff-contending chops, it is way too early to start scoreboard watching.

Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek know his team has playoff mettle. The Phoenix Suns are 29-19 overall, sitting in 6th position in the West but just as close to 9th (out of the playoffs) as they are to 4th (home court advantage).

"Why not?" Hornacek says of the playoffs. "We got a good mix of guys who can put the ball in the hole, we got guys who can defend and we got young guys who can use their energy every night."

The Suns have an 18-12 record against the vaunted Western Conference and 11-7 against the East. They have a 27-12 record against teams who play faster than an ice floe. They are 13-11 on the road and 16-8 at home. Every month has been .500 or better.

Just about any split of the Suns season is in the Suns' favor.

"The great thing about our guys is they're not resting on [their record]," Hornacek said. "We lose some games and they're hot and they're ticked off and they're itching to play the next game. That's a great sign to have players that are like that."

But he doesn't want the players to start scoreboard watching, with 34 games still left in the season.

"We have a board in the locker room that lists all the teams for playoffs," Hornacek said. "We don't even put it up. At this point, we're just going from game to game. We have our little sets. I keep telling them if we get this + number, we'll have a chance to be in the playoffs. I think it's a fun run for these guys."

It might seem like an obvious answer, but it really is too early. The Suns don't even know what their team will look like in two weeks.

"So much can happen between now and then," Hornacek said.

It's possible the Suns will make a trade to acquire a bigger star than anyone currently on the roster. Whether that includes losing players in the current rotation in the trade, or simply adding someone from another team, the player will have to fit into their system and style.

But the Suns are happy with the team they have at the moment. The guys are having fun and they're playing a fearless type of basketball. And when Eric Bledsoe gets back healthy, that's an All-Star caliber addition right there.

With only three losses of 10+ points in 48 games, the Suns have suffered the fewest blowouts in the league. They fight every game. Sometimes it works (29 wins) and sometimes it doesn't (19 losses), but it's the same every game.

The losses are developing into a pattern though.

Against the Bulls, the Suns once again showed they can't play well against a slow-paced team. They can beat a defense-first team (Indiana) but the Pacers are mid-pack in the league in pace. It's the slow teams - even the ones who can't beat most of the rest of the league - that give the Suns fits.

"It's kind of a battle of who's going to play their style," Hornacek said. "We have to get out and push the ball."

The Suns have failed to push the ball against the league's five slowest-paced teams: Memphis Grizzlies (0-2), New York Knicks (0-1), Chicago Bulls (0-2), Utah Jazz (2-1) and Brooklyn Nets (0-1). That's a 2-7 record against five losing or .500 teams.

Luckily, the Suns have only four games left against those five slowest teams vs. 30 games against the rest. Against teams ranked 25th or faster in pace, the Suns are 27-12 this season.

That bodes well for the rest of the year.

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