Thanks to a tiebreaker that is momentarily in effect, the Phoenix Suns are back in the 8th spot in the playoff chase, just ahead of Dallas thanks to having a better Western Conference record.
Both teams are 42-29, but the Suns are better against the West so far so they are in the 8th spot for now. Dallas faces a brutal schedule for the next week, while the Suns have to keep winning on the road before closing out against their own brutality of schedule. Dallas faces the Thunder, Golden State and play two against the Clippers in their next five games. Sound familiar? It's that stretch that knocked the Suns out of position earlier.
A guest writer, fantasy basketball money leagues, posted a very good article today analyzing whether the Suns can make it. Spoiler alert: there's a reason I promoted the fanpost to the top of the site.
When the Suns do make the playoffs, guess who they are most likely to match up against? The San Antonio Spurs, no less.
The Spurs keep trucking along, now fighting to win their 15th straight game despite regularly resting their stars. Guess who was the last team the Spurs lost to?
You're right, it was the Suns. By a whopping 21 points. The Spurs were resting Tony Parker in that game, and were at the end of a 9-game road trip. Otherwise, the Spurs beat the Suns the two times they'd met earlier in the season.
A first round matchup against the Spurs would be poetic. While the Spurs dominated the Suns in the mid-2000s, knocking the Suns from the playoffs in 2005, 2007 and 2008, the Suns swept the Spurs in 2010. That was the last time the Suns made the playoffs while the Spurs have made it each year and reached the Finals in 2013.
Whither the Blazers?
A crazy thought is that the Suns might not have to make the playoffs ahead of either Memphis or Dallas. They just might be the ones to knock Portland from the playoffs. The Suns are only three games behind Portland now, who are reeling in the second half and playing even worse without LcMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers' slide began before Aldridge was sidelined, though, so there's no guarantee they will win a bunch of games once he comes back.
Let's savor this for a moment, Suns fans.
Three times now, the Phoenix Suns have pushed back against their doubters this season to take a playoff position in the tough Western Conference.
First, the Suns killed it in December, winning 10 of 13 games and getting as high as 7th with a 19-11 record after pasting the Los Angeles Clippers in LA on December 30. The Suns were never supposed to be good enough to win anything but the lottery.
Second, when Eric Bledsoe went down to long-term injury the pundits again predicted the Suns' demise. They said the mirage would fade, and the Suns would go back to resembling the Sixers. But no, the Suns treaded water without their second best player and kept their playoff position for two full months behind the Dragon.
A third time the Suns were left for dead happened just two weeks ago when the Suns lost a series of games in advance of Eric Bledsoe's return that dropped them to the 9th spot with a looming road-heavy schedule to close out the year. No way the Suns make it, they said. A loss to Cleveland at home seemed to staple the Suns "RIP" sign to their chests.
Yet, just two weeks later the Suns have won 6 of 7 games since Eric Bledsoe returned to the starting lineup, and now are right back into the playoff picture with small window to widen their hold on the position before the gauntlet of the final 2 weeks faces them.
Going into April with a hold on playoff position is vital, but this team has already proven they can beat anyone on any night and that they do not shy from pressure. Since when has such an inexperienced team held up so well under pressure?
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your Phoenix Suns.