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Playoffs looking much more likely for surging Suns

Here’s how the Phoenix Suns can make it to the play-in game in the West for the 8th playoff seed.

Indiana Pacers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For the first time since late 2015, the Phoenix Suns sit as high as 10th in the Western Conference with a week to go before the playoffs start.

Except this time, they have a chance to actually MAKE the playoffs!

Way back in April 2015, the post-nightmare-trade-deadline Suns, with 39 wins, sat in 10th place and were three games behind the 8th seeded Thunder with four to play. The Suns went on to lose those last four games to finish the season losing 10 of their last 11 overall in what turned out to be the beginning of a long awful journey to hell.

THIS TIME, the Suns are in a completely different place.

This time, the Suns again are in 10th place with four games to go, but they’ve won four straight and with the new playoff rules they are only TWO wins out of a play-in spot for the 8th seed!

Here are the standings as of Friday morning.

Suns need help

The Suns cannot rise up to 9th or 8th for the play-in game without a little help from the Portland Trail Blazers or Memphis Grizzlies.

Portland and Memphis already have 32 wins each — two more than the Suns — meaning the Suns have to catch up to, or pass, both of them to force their way into the play-in game.

Or do they?????

What if all three teams finish with 34 wins, meaning Portland and Memphis split their final four games while the Suns win out?

According to ESPN, the NBA will use winning percentage to determine playoff or play-in spots. Portland has played one more game than Memphis and Phoenix, so if they finish with the SAME WINS as those teams well then Portland goes home.

  • Memphis Grizzlies, 34-39, winning percentage: .466
  • Phoenix Suns, 34-39, winning percentage: .466
  • Portland Trailblazers, 34-40, winning percentage: .459

So actually, if the Suns win out, Portland would have to finish 3-1 to stay ahead in the standings rather than just 2-2.

Okay, so what if Portland goes 3-1 to finish 35-39, and Memphis and Phoenix both finish 34-39? Well then Portland gets the 8-seed, and the Suns and Grizzlies would finish with the exact same winning percentage... which then leads to deeper tiebreakers rules... which starts with head-to-head record... where the Suns fail because they lost 2 of 3 games to Memphis this year.

So let’s reset now...

To make the play-in, the Suns need to win

  • three more games than the Grizzlies from here on out
  • OR two more games than the Blazers
  • AND of course stay ahead of the other contenders

Grizzlies upcoming schedule

The Suns can make the play-in if they finish with 3 more wins than the Grizzlies. Frankly, now that Jaren Jackson Jr. is out injured, I can totally see the Grizzlies losing all four of their remaining games.

  • Thunder (they never quit)
  • Raptors (settled hard into 2nd seed in East, but they never quit)
  • Celtics (fighting off Miami to stay in 3rd)
  • Bucks (they can beat you easily even when resting a lot of guys)

They really only have rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke as their best players any more, and very little depth.

This is the Suns best bet for the play-in: hope the Grizzlies go 1-3 or 0-4. They’ve already dropped Bubble games to the Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans and Jazz.

Blazers upcoming schedule

You’re not gonna like this. The Blazers remaining schedule is cake.

  • Clippers (kinda fighting Denver for 2nd seed, but can’t fall further than 3rd)
  • 76ers (no Ben Simmons, settled hard into 6th seed in East)
  • Mavericks (settled hard into 7th seed in West)
  • Nets (settled hard into 8th in East... the Nets rested half their rotation after beating Washington the other day!)

We would really love to see the Blazers only split these four games, but I see them going 3-1 myself. Bubble wins already include the Grizzlies, Rockets and Nuggets, with their only loss to the Celtics.

Suns upcoming schedule

It’s no picnic, I’ll tell you that.

  • Heat (they never quit, except in that 4th quarter against the Bucks on Thursday... which will likely leave them mad and wanting even more to beat their next opponent!)
  • Thunder (they never quit)
  • 76ers (no Ben Simmons, settled hard into 6th seed in East)
  • Mavericks (settled hard into 7th seed in West, but they prob want to avenge last week’s loss to Suns)

Can the Suns go 4-0? Sure! I never thought they’d start 4-0 already, beating the Mavericks, Pacers and Clippers in succession after a warmup over the Wizards. The Suns are the hottest team in the league — and the ONLY team still undefeated in the Bubble! And the second half of this schedule actually looks easier than the first half.

Keep the faith, Suns fans.

Final wrinkle

We don’t know how the sure playoff teams are going to handle their remaining seeding games.

On one hand, you don’t want to risk injury to your biggest stars, but on the other hand there’s really nothing else to do in Orlando than play basketball. They haven’t played 78 games already in the last six months. They’ve only played four games together in the last five months! So maybe these teams will play full rosters to help them get ready for the playoffs.

Watch the scoreboards, Suns fans. But as long as the Suns keep winning, all you need to worry about are the Grizzlies and Blazers.

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