- Grant Hill called this game, "Our super bowl"
- Matt Barnes called it a "Must win"
- Steve Nash went so far as to tweet, "Big game tonight for the Suns!" adding to the comment yesterday that, "This is our playoffs for the next 5 or 6 weeks. We have to win at a very high rate if we want to get into the playoffs."
The key word in that quote? "IF"
ed note: where else in the world can you go to find an article that starts with three bullet points? That's what we do here at Bright Side: Breaking rules and pushing the envelop on a daily basis
I don't doubt that Steve, Grant, Matt and the rest of the team WANT to get into the playoffs. Surprisingly, though, many fans and commentators aren't so sure.
Yesterday afternoon I happened to catch quite a detailed examination by KTAR Sports Radio host Dave Burns of why the Suns were better off by not making the playoffs. It's a discussion we've had here, as well.
I am not on the fence on this one. The Suns have to make the playoffs. Failure to do so, even if the result is another first round bounce, will be rightly seen as a massive step back for this organization.
Worried about roster moves this off-season that are only made for cost-savings reasons? Not making the playoff's will make that an almost certain reality.
More important than making or not making the playoffs, however, is answering The Big Quesion: Can Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal co-exist on the court together?
So far in the post Amare era (10 games w/ 4 wins and 6 losses) we have seen the Suns look good with Shaq on the floor without Nash. We've also seen a small ball line up of Nash, Barbosa, Richardson, Hill and Barnes go +8 in 11 minutes (h/t to Mr. Coro for that stat).
It's only been 7 games without Amare (3 before and 4 after Nash's ankle sprain) but we have yet to see a line up that includes Shaq and Nash playing together for signficant minutes where the on-court chemistry looked good and any rythym was established.
The defensive liability that is the Shaq/Nash pick and roll defensive combination MUST be countered by a dominant pairing on the other end.
Determining if this can work has got to be the most important question for the Suns front office to answer going into an off-season that will surely including trading a significant player - perhaps either Shaq or Nash.
Back to tonight's super bowl, must win, playoff game.
The Mavs and Suns are 14 and 14 since 2004 and have more similarities than I care to mention. On the court, the matchups that matter are....
- The Mavs are the only team (perhaps ever in the history of all basketball anywhere in the known and unknown universe) that run a 4/5 high pick and roll with Dirk and Dampier
- They also run the very rare 4/2 pick and roll with Dirk and Terry
- Like most teams, their various pick and rolls are very effective against the Suns
- Matt Barnes' work on Dirk and his ability to hit open shots and rebound will probably decide this game. Matt? Are you ready, Matt? I hope so
- The Mavs will be without Josh Howard due to lingering ankle issues. That is mighty nice of them to show up in Phoenix without their #3 scorer and best wing defender
- Grant Hill was the last starter on the court yesterday working on his shot. With no really match up for him to worry about (no disrespect to Devean "DON'T SEND ME TO THE NETS" George) Hill could/should be able to help on Dirk and do some damage in transition as well as the half court
- Look for Dampier early in this game. He's famous for showing up occasionally. I don't have numbers to back this up, but I am fairly certain that the Mavs play much better when Damp plays well. Now that Diop is gone, there's not a lot of depth behind him.
- If the Suns so choose, and who really knows these days, they can go to Shaq early and see if Shaq is going to have any competition in the paint. If lazy, uninterested Damp is here in Phx perhaps distracted by the great weather, then he will pick up some early fouls and give Shaq a chance to put up some monster numbers ... if the Suns decide to go that way, of course, and not try and win the game from the perimeter
- Barbosa and Terry off the bench is another key. If these guys cancel each other out, the game should easily go our way. If Terry has about a +10 advantage on Barbosa, then it's time to consider looking for your fishing poles
- Make no mistake - a loss tonight and the season is pretty much done. A win tonight and we move on in the sudden death tourney that is the next 5 or 6 weeks
Speaking of playoff races, Mavs Money Ball did up a GREAT schedule comparison that I am stealing (shhh, don't tell).
|OPP||OPP%||Against||Own b2b||Opp b2b||OPP||OPP%||Against||Own b2b||Opp b2b|
|8 road||16 vs West||0.458||22-15||4||5||10 road||14 vs West||0.526||18-17||4||1|
From the look of this, the schedule is on our favor. The winning % of our opponents if .458 vs .526 and our record against the remaining teams is 22-15 while the Mavs are 18-17.
They do of course have a 4 game head start from this point but we can cut two games off that with wins tonight and on April 5th.
Enjoy the playoffs. They start tonight for the Suns and hopefully we will see a playoff worthy performance from the home team. I am still betting on the 8th seed being ours.