As the NBA takes a 10-day hiatus for the All-Star break, let's take a break from trade scenarios for a moment and remember that the Suns still have 28 games to play this season and a tenuous hold on 8th place in the Western Conference playoff picture
The Suns currently hold a half-game lead in the standings, as their 29-25 record is just slightly better than the Oklahoma City Thunder's 28-25 mark. The New Orleans Pelicans are just a 1.5 games behind the Suns, despite Anthony Davis' recent shoulder injury that will keep him out of the All-Star game.
The Suns struggled in the run up to the All-Star break, losing five of their last six games. Two of those loses, a one-point loss to the Grizzlies and a two-point loss to the Kings on a Demarcus Cousins buzzer beater, could've just as easily been Suns victories though. It should also be noted that Alex Len missed the last two games with an ankle injury, and is expected to return when the Suns take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 20.
There is also the fact that the Suns are 1-10 in their last 11 games against the top 10 team in the west. While that stat is correct, the Suns also have wins over the Cavs, Wizards and Bulls during that same stretch. After the break, half of the Suns 28 games are against those top 10 teams, but they open up with games against the Timberwolves, Bulls and Celtics.
As for the rest of the Western Conference, it is still the same old death race. The current No. 3 seed Portland is only two games ahead of the No. 7 seed San Antonio Spurs. One team that could take a fall from the cluster of teams is Clippers. Blake Griffin had surgery to remove a staph infection that had developed on his elbow, and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.
While the Clippers have responded nicely since getting hammered by the Thunder on Sunday with wins over the Mavericks and Rockets, the Clippers begin the break with four of their first five against Western Conference playoff teams. If Griffin misses significant time, the Clippers could join the Suns in the race for the eight seed.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
ALL-STAR REPLACEMENTS NAMED:
With the news that Dwyane Wade, Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin will miss the All-Star game due to a variety of injuries, Atlanta Hawk Kyle Korver, Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki and Portland Trail Blazer Damian Lillard have been named as their replacements. This year's All-Star game takes place on Sunday in Madison Square Garden. The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. EST tip on TNT.
SUNS TO WATCH:
While the Suns don't have any players playing in the All-Star game, they are being represented by Isaiah Thomas in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You can watch Thomas compete with the likes of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and others on Saturday as the event is scheduled to start at 8:30 P.M. EST on TNT.
Also, per Paul Coro, Alex Len could've been selected to replace Steven Adams in BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge had he been healthy. Instead, with injuries piling up, the likes of Robert Covington, Matthew Dellavedova and Kostas Papanikolaou have been added to the game.