It’s time for some scoreboard watching. As fans, we’ve all been guilty of doing it before. The Bubble was a prime example of this, as many of us hoped for certain outcomes to enhance the Suns’ playoff odds day-by-day as they continued to rack up the wins.
The reality of the situation is that the Suns set themselves up for failure earlier in the season when they didn’t handle business in the early months of the season.
If the young Suns players should take anything away from the Bubble, it’s the importance of every single game. Chris Paul has already tried to ingrain that into his new teammates’ brains, and Monty Williams spoke about the importance of it immediately following the their 8-0 run in Orlando.
This speech really stood out to me in the moment, and it’s something I hope the players take to heart.
“You’ve gained the respect of the league. Now we got to build on it. We may get to build on it this weekend or this summer, we don’t control it. We gotta get to the point where we control it. You want to be the kind of team that controls their own destiny. That’s our next step,” Monty Williams.
“This is special. Don’t let anybody take this away from you. You gained the respect of the league.”— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 13, 2020
Monty Williams gives emotional speech after Suns went 8-0 in the bubble
There have already been a few games that could come back to haunt them (Kings game, and the Nuggets overtime losses) plus dropping winnable games against the Pistons, Wizards and Thunder. Securing gutty wins over Boston and Milwaukee can offset those games, but going forward they absolutely need to beat teams they are supposed to beat.
It’s imperative to build the padding on your record now so late in the season you aren’t scrambling for desperation wins. Securing a top 6 seed should be the goal with the revamped playoff format that features a play-in tournament.
This year the NBA’s playoff format is different, as 10 teams have an opportunity to make it in and only the top 6 seeds are guaranteed playoff spots.
Here are the rules explained via an NBA press release earlier in the season:
At the conclusion of the regular season, the team with the seventh-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the eighth-highest winning percentage in its conference in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will be the seventh seed in the playoffs for its conference.
The team with the ninth-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the tenth-highest winning percentage in its conference in a Play-In Game (the “Nine-Ten Game”). The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game will be the eighth seed in the playoffs for its conference.
While this does seem to reward the seventh and eighth seeds, it’s still a situation you don’t want to put yourself in, because in one game anything can happen.
ESPN’s BPI not only likes the Suns’ playoff odds, but has them as the fifth most likely team to reach the Western Conference Finals, and just 0.7 percent below the Nuggets.
Here is an additional snippet from ESPN’s BPI projections, and as mentioned above that top 6 ranking is vital for them to secure so they cement themselves in the playoffs.
The West: Chances to finish No. 6 or better
Taking care of business against the clump of teams fighting in the mid-tier of the Western Conference is also going to be important. After this home-stand concludes (PHI, ORL, BKN) they will have a 3-game stretch against Memphis, New Orleans and Portland and could give themselves some much needed breathing room with a 3-0 or 2-1 stretch.
Every game counts. As Chris Paul likes to say, the Suns need to be “piling up wins” during this early part of the season.
Here is the conclusion of the 1st half of their schedule. At the very least going 6-5 or better should be the goal in these 11 games.
If the Suns can head into the All-Star Break with a 7-4 stretch or better, they will be in terrific shape.