After a disappointing 5-5 start, our Phoenix Suns headed east to make things right and after the dust from an extended six-game road trip settled, now find themselves at a respectable 9-6. There were close games (BOS, DET), blowouts (PHI, IND), and a comeback that almost was (TOR). It all added up to a much-needed 4-1 stretch, and our boys will be coming back home.
This Suns team is clearly one to be reckoned with, despite their growing pains, but unfortunately the competition hasn't changed much out West. In fact, it has only grown stronger.
|Golden State (2)
|San Antonio (6)
|LA Clippers (8)
Detailed within this wonky table are the standings out West, as recent as 8PM Monday night. The Suns find themselves in a familiar position, being just outside the top-8, but that isn't even the most precarious part of the equation.
Below the Suns are Anthony Davis' Pelicans, plus an Oklahoma City team that everyone knows will be out for blood once they secure the returns of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook from injury. Even the Denver Nuggets, the subjects of such ridicule during the first two weeks of the season, have now ripped off four straight wins and are on the verge of righting the ship at .500.
Last year's bloodbath garnered plenty of headlines as there were three teams (DAL, PHX, MEM) fighting for the last two playoff spots. This year is shaping up to be even nastier, as the Thunder and Pelicans figure to join the Suns in the steel-cage deathmatch, and even the Nuggets might make an appearance as well.
Meanwhile, out East, Brooklyn is currently sitting at no. 8 with a laughable 5-8 record.
There have been countless articles pushing for playoff reform in light of the East/West imbalance, and I won't waste your time by retreading all the fine points that have been made in this regard. It is a silly problem with a painfully obvious solution and frankly I'm tired of hearing about it.
I can only hope that our new commissioner realizes that real change goes beyond sleeved jerseys and 44-minute preseason games, and doesn't step in the same cowpie that his predecessor found a cozy home inside of, ridiculing all notions of progressive thinking while stubbornly clinging to the old tried-and-true method of rearranging problems in lieu of actually providing solutions.
Shunning Anthony Davis and/or our own League Pass darling Suns from the playoffs in favor of the Hawks/Bucks/Nets would seem idiotic to any outside observer, but as is often the case in our society, change isn't achieved until there is no feasible way to avoid it. Perhaps another 48-win team watching from home for the second-straight year will finally push the issue to the front-burner.
At this point the case for playoff reform has been exhausted. The burden should now be on those who oppose it to offer any good reason why it should stay the same. In the meantime, I'm just a fan of a wonderful team that has the rotten luck of playing in the Western Conference.
The Roundup (click the links for full recaps)
Nov 17 @ Boston, W 118-114
Three Suns players reached career highs in this game: Markieff Morris with 30, Alex Len with 19, and rookie T.J. Warren with 7. Boston turned this one into a barn-burner, and Phoenix had just enough tricks up their sleeve to secure the win.
Nov 19 @ Detroit, W 88-86
The antithesis of the Celtics game, the Suns were lulled into 48 minutes of sedated rim-clanging that only barely resembled a game of basketball. Eric Bledsoe led the way with 18 points, including a clutch go-ahead layup.
Nov 21 @ Philadelphia, W 122-96
The Suns did what they needed to do against the maladroit Sixers, who are an NBA team in name only. Isaiah Thomas led the way with 23 points on only 9 shots.
Nov 22 @ Indiana, W 106-83
The Pacers are a team of injury-replacements at this point, and the Suns were never really threatened in this one. Gerald Green tormented his former team with 23 points. Just a reminder, because I never tire of pointing this out: Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and Bogdan Bogdanovic for Luis Scola.
Nov 24 @ Toronto, L 104-100
The only loss out East. The Suns mounted a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback only to come up short on a handful of bungled offensive possessions down the stretch. Jonas Valancuinas dominated with 27 points on 10-11 from the field, while Bledsoe had perhaps his best game of the season with 25/7/6.
On The Horizon
- Wednesday, Nov 26 vs Denver
- Friday, Nov 28 @ Denver
- Sunday, Nov 30 vs Orlando
The Suns swept the season series versus both Denver and Orlando last year, but the Nuggles have won four-straight and apparently aren't content with entering Western Conference Doormat status, while the Magic are at 6-9 and might be the best "bad" team in the NBA.
Of course, Sunday's game will feature the return of Channing Frye, which leads us to...
The Shark Tank
That damn shark just won't go away. Who swam ahead and who was sucked under?
"Faster than sharks, so it's no big deal": This week's Faster Than Sharks award goes to Alex Len. He achieved his career high in points at Boston, and during the Eastern portion of the road trip he shot 17/22 from the field, showing off his offensive arsenal to go with his already imposing presence in the paint. He used to be a gymnast, so I imagine he has the requisite moves to evade a dumb ol' shark.
"We're gonna need a bigger boat": I'm sacrificing Marcus Morris to the shark this week. During the five-game Eastern swing of the road trip, Mook had games of 5 points vs DET, 6 points vs IND and 5 points vs TOR. Factor in his 3 points vs the Clippers back when this road trip started, and the Suns haven't seen a whole lot of production from a guy who is supposedly in the starting lineup to fill the hoop.
Thanks for reading. See you next time, Suns fans.