How do you define the Phoenix Suns (42-29) recent four game winning streak? Was it a simple case of "doing what they were supposed to do?" Or a turning point in the season...? Different eyes are going to see different things. One thing is for certain: This past week the Suns pulled their heads fully above water and are neck-and-neck in this playoff race.
Either way, this was an important week for the Suns and so is next week. More on that below. The Suns took care of business and that is what matters the most right now. They needed these wins.
The Memphis Grizzlies have gone 27-9 as of late and look like a team that could run all the way up to the No. 4 Seed if they keep this up. They also have a five game road trip starting this week that could benefit the Suns. The Dallas Mavericks this season have only lost more than two games in a row once. A three game losing streak to start this month off. They are a model of pretty consistent basketball for a team that is fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot out west. They get to sit back at home for four straight, three of which against playoff teams, all in conference.
So for the Suns beating bad teams now is important for the final stretch where they only have two under .500 opponent on the schedule (Sacramento & New Orleans) and six Western Conference Playoff contenders to deal with after this current week.
Goran Dragic's comment after the Detroit win (see below) was the right approach for every opponent the Suns play over the next three weeks. They are all good. They are all talented. And the Suns have to remember that nightly.
Part of that is going to be the return of Eric Bledsoe to where he was as one of the NBA's Most Improved Players and another part of it is the play of the bench.
This past week Markieff Morris and Gerald Green played very well. Morris (17.6 PPG 64% shooting) and Green (14.0 PPG 49% shooting) found their rhythm and chemistry providing a spark off the bench. Sam for Ish Smith, Alex Len, and the rest of the reserves.
When that unit contributes the way they have as of late this is a dynamic offense with waves of scorers to throw at opponents. When they are not... Well, that is a very different story.
Overall the team controls their own destiny and cannot worry about what Memphis does on their road trip or how Dallas serves up home cooking during their stand. All that matters is how the Phoenix Suns do in their games and everything else will take care of itself. Well, a little help from the Basketball God's wouldn't hurt...
In all four wins this week the Suns are holding their opponents to under 45% shooting from the field. They are playing a more desperate and urgent brand of basketball as of late allowing them to compete on both sides of the court. This is not going to become a great defensive team overnight, but they have to be competitive down the stretch here to even consider catching Dallas, Memphis, or Golden State in the standings.
Quote of the Week
They are a good team. They have won only 25 games, but still if you look at their roster they have good players. I think we went into the game especially remembering that game in Detroit when we were down 25 points and tried to come back. Tonight, I think we played well for some parts of the time, but we still had a lot of problems especially getting big guys out of the paint and getting rebounds. -- Goran Dragic on the Pistons
Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, with their own pick landing in the lottery. Sort of what most thought in the pre-season, but not quite the pace from those projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:
Minnesota Timberwolves (34-35) -- No. 12 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) Aaron Harrison, Freshman Guard Kentucky
Phoenix Suns (42-29) -- No. 23 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Freshman Wing Arizona
Washington Wizards (36-34) -- No. 19 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Clint Capela, Swiss Forward 1994 Born
Indiana Pacers (51-20) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Jabari Bird, Freshman Wing California
Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.
Suns History Lesson
This week in Suns History: March 31st, 1992 -- Cotton Fitzsimmons won his 800th game becoming only the 6th Coach in NBA History to reach that amount of wins.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Wednesday, March 26th @ Washington Wizards (36-34)
Friday, March 28th vs. New York Knicks (29-41)
Sunday, March 30th @ Los Angeles Lakers (23-46)
The Suns can easily pick up where they left off rattling off wins against the middle to bottom of the league. A switch flipped for them after the loss to Brooklyn and they are winning the games playoff teams have to win to be playoff teams. On the season they are a combined 2-3 against these three with all three wins coming against the "rival" Lakers. A double-dip along the yellow brick road to the playoffs of a season sweep of the Lakers and a pace keeping win would be a sweet feat.
All three games have an emotional and rational significance to the Suns with the Lakers being the Lakers, Marcin Gortat on the Wizards, and that buzzer-beater by J.R. Smith a year ago... We all remember.