With eleven games left in the regular season, the playoffs are creeping closer and closer. In the Eastern Conference, the race for the final seed seems to be a battle of attrition. However, in the Western Conference, it’s all-out war. A seed in the playoffs is basically up for grabs in a conference that has proven to be much stronger than it’s opposite. So far, five teams seem to be a complete, 100% lock for the playoffs: the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers. The next three spots will most likely be a battle between four teams: the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks.
As the NBA standings stand right now, Golden State is the 6th seed, Memphis is the seventh seed, Phoenix is the eighth seed and Dallas stays back at nine. Let’s look at how close these four teams are from one another. The Warriors are currently 10.5 games out of first place, only one game out of fifth place. Memphis is only a game and a half behind Golden State. Phoenix is only a half of a game behind Memphis. And Dallas is tied with Phoenix at 42-29. Basically, three of these teams will most likely make the playoffs, while the other will be left to watch the playoffs at the comfort of their own couch.
Now, let’s see how the Phoenix Suns will be playing for a championship or left at home.
They Are Hot
The Phoenix Suns have been playing extremely well as of late. They have won six of their last seven, including a current four game winning streak. Let’s look closer at these past four games. On March 19, they defeated the Magic 109-93. Goran Dragic led the way for the Suns with 18 points, including 14 from Gerald Green and 20 combined points from the Morris brothers. Miles Plumlee rebounded well and the backcourt did a good job dishing assists. On March 21, they defeated the Pistons 98-92. Eric Bledsoe led the way with 23 points, Goran Dragic added 20 and the Morris brothers combined for 17 (Markieff had 16 of those). Markieff also added 8 rebounds and once again, the starting backcourt combined for a good number of assists.
On March 23, they defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-120. This time, Markieff Morris led the way with 25, his brother Marcus added 11, Bledsoe scored 21 and Dragic added 18. Markieff recorded another 8 rebounds and the starting backcourt combined for 11 assists. Last but not least, on Monday night the Suns defeated the Atlanta Hawks 102-95. This game, Eric Bledsoe led the way with 20 points, Dragic added 19 and the Morris brothers combined for 24 (Markieff had 17 of those). The Morris brothers also combined for 8 rebounds and the starting backcourt combined for 10 assists.
If you couldn’t tell, there seems to be a pattern to these wins. It seems apparent that the Suns record more wins when Dragic and Bledsoe score and assist well, as well as having big scoring and rebounding contributions from the Morris brothers off the bench. Those seem to be the two big keys to getting a win. In their one loss through the past seven games, Bledsoe and Dragic only combined for 24 points and 7 assists. The Morris brothers also combined for 24 points and only 7 rebounds. Although the Morris brothers did well, the backcourt didn’t exactly perform the way they should.
If the Phoenix Suns want to make the playoffs, they need to have solid all-around games from those four players. If they can get that, then they should have a chance to fight for a championship ring in the playoffs amongst the big boys.
Let’s take a look at the Suns’ remaining eleven games of the regular season. They don’t necessarily have an easy end to the season. When the calendar flips to April, they will have 8 games left. Six of those 8 games (which will span 14 days) will be played against the top teams in the Western Conference. On April 2, they play the Los Angeles Clippers. April 4th, they play the Portland Trail Blazers. April 6th, they play the Oklahoma City Thunder. April 9th, they catch a break against the Pelicans (although they shouldn’t be taken lightly because every game counts). April 11th, they play the San Antonio Spurs. Their next two games will be even more important because they are up against Dallas and Memphis, two of the teams they are competing with for a spot. Lastly, they end the season against the Sacramento Kings.
It’s not rocket science that they will have a very difficult remaining schedule. These are games that they need to come out strong, focus and bring everything they got. Losing can’t be an option and they need their entire roster to step it up. If you think about it, those remaining games are going to be played against teams they will most likely see in the playoffs if they get there. So, if they can’t beat them in the regular season then they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs at all.
With the way they are playing right now, it is definitely possible that the Phoenix Suns make the playoffs. However, with the tough schedule ahead, it won’t come easy. They have a very narrow window to the playoffs and it’s time to get serious. These next few games are going to be daunting, exhausting and highly important.
If I were to take a guess, I would say they make the playoffs with either the seventh or eighth seed. Whether they make it or not, though, doesn’t mean the team, management and fans should be disappointed. Remember, at the beginning of the season, the Suns were expected to be one of the top-five worst teams in the NBA. They proved everybody wrong as the season dragged on. They have completely surpassed expectations and should be very proud of themselves no matter how the season ends.