“The long and winding road...” — dun, dun — “that leads to your door...”
This season has felt as majestic as the famous lines penned by Paul McCartney in 1968. Yes, the same year that the Suns organization began play in downtown Phoenix. The road to the postseason has been long indeed as the team is experiencing its longest drought in franchise history. “Many times I’ve been alone, and many times I’ve cried” over the Suns during the past decade.
Yet as the 2020-21 version of the purple and orange are changing the narrative and primed to surprise. The journey is nearing it’s regular season end with the crescendo of the playoffs just up ahead. We’ve been excitingly watching this campaign and analyzing the teams performance seven games at a time, knowing that at the completion of 10 periods, the regular season ends and the true adventure begins.
Through 8 periods of such analysis, here is how the Phoenix Suns have fared:
- Period 1: 5-2
- Period 2: 3-4
- Period 3: 4-3
- Period 4: 6-1
- Period 5: 6-1
- Period 6: 5-2
- Period 7: 6-1
- Period 8: 5-2
There has been only one period in which the Suns have posted a sub-.500 record. This would be a typical 7-game stretch in days of yore, but this is the magical mystery tour. The team is 1.5 games out of the top record in the NBA and cruising towards the postseason.
Everything we want is on the other side of hard.
"Everything we want is on the other side of hard. This is our hard and we are going to find out who we are."— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 8, 2020
- Head Coach Monty Williams pic.twitter.com/IoamWCrRdU
The Last Seven
Period 8 provided us with the intensity that the playoffs would bring and the reminder to keep focus, even against those teams who seemingly have nothing to play for. From the highs of winning the Utah Jazz game to the lows of...
Deandre Ayton continued to show his growth and development, posting a stat line of 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds during the period, including an impressive 26 and 11 versus the Kings on Thursday night. The stats do not give justice to the effort displayed.
The results of the last seven with pre-game odds (via FiveThirtyEight.com):
- vs. Utah Jazz (W, 117-113) — Jazz 45%, Suns 55%. Suns -1.5 favorites
- @ Los Angeles Clippers (L, 113-103) — Suns 34%, Clippers 66%. Clippers -4.0 favorites
- vs. Washington Wizards (W, 134-106) — Wizards 10%, Suns 90%. Suns -13.5 favorites
- vs. Houston Rockets (W, 126-120) — Rockets 10%, Suns 90%. Suns -13.5 favorites
- vs. Miami Heat (W, 106-86) — Heat 33%, Suns 67%. Suns -4.5 favorites
- vs. Sacramento Kings (W, 122-114) — Kings 15%, Suns 85%. Suns -11.0 favorites
- vs. San Antonio Spurs (L, 111-85) — Spurs 13%, Suns 87%. Suns -11.5 favorites
Seems like this FiveThirtyEight website is pretty on point, eh? Perhaps when the Fan Duel Sports Book opens inside Phoenix Suns Arena (which, let’s be real, should just go ahead and be named Fan Duel Forum) you’ll stop by and look at their projections knowing that it could but some more shekels in your pocket.
How did the Bright Siders fare in predicting Period 8?
55% of Bright Side Nation nailed the final result in Period 8, although I’m not sure if they saw a blowout by the Spurs being the reason for the second loss in the stretch. You continue to display a solid understand of what this team is and how you expect them to perform.
The Next Seven
Perhaps it is cliché to say, “this is the most important stretch of the season”, but it is. The final stretch of the 2020-21 season will be the toughest and when you look at the level of the competition that lies ahead, there is a possibility that the stranglehold that Phoenix has had on the second seed in the Western Conference (the position they have held since March 2, outside of two days on March 18 and 19) could slip away.
Here is the upcoming schedule for Phoenix:
The next 7 will test the Suns in a plethora of different ways. Every team they are facing is currently playoff bound. They will have two back-to-backs, both on the road. They are playing the top teams from each conference. Every team is over .500. Buckle up Suns fans, Period 9 is going to be a ride.
How does FiveThirtyEight see the next seven playing out?
- @ Milwaukee Bucks — Suns 42%, Bucks 58%. Suns -2.0 favorites
- @ Philadelphia 76ers — Suns 41%, 76ers 59%. 76ers -2.0 favorites
- @ Boston Celtics — Suns 40%, Celtics 60%. Celtics -2.5 favorites
- @ Brooklyn Nets — Suns 40%, Nets 60%. Nets -2.5 favorites
- @ New York Knicks — Suns 63%, Knicks 37%. Suns -3.5 favorites
- vs. Los Angeles Clippers — Clippers 40%, Suns 60%. Suns -2.5 favorites
- vs. Utah Jazz — Jazz 42%, Suns 58%. Suns -2.0 favorites
If we praised FiveThirtyEight for their accuracy above, we should hope they are wrong during the upcoming stretch of Suns basketball. By their count Phoenix will go 3-4, which will put their record at 43-20 for the season. Nothing to scoff at, no, but how it affects seeding will always be a point of emphasis.
There are no projected blowouts during the Period 9 stretch. Just tough-nosed, grind it out, playoff-esque basketball games. Like the 1996 song ‘Machinehead’ by alternative English rock band Bush says, “breathe in, breathe out”. (I sure am referencing plenty of across-the-pond music in this one, aren’t I?) This is a mighty stretch that lies ahead for the Phoenix Suns.
When you compare it to the previous periods of the season (with current records annotated), you see how difficult Period 9 will be:
- Period 1: Opposing W/L - 216-178 (.548)
- Period 2: 168-224 (.429)
- Period 3: 186-206 (.474)
- Period 4: 206-187 (.524)
- Period 5: 19-203 (.482)
- Period 6: 180-212 (.459)
- Period 7: 155-237 (.395)
- Period 8: 195-199 (.495)
- Period 9: 254-143 (.640)
Outside of the New York Knicks, Phoenix has faced each team thus far this season. Their record versus these teams is 5-3. Not only is Phoenix on the road for 5 of the 7 games, they will be taking the best shots from teams that they have previously defeated. The revenge factor coupled with the target-on-their-back component will all be present.
The eastern road swing that includes five of the top six Eastern Conference teams will set the tone for Period 9. If they come through the stretch with a 3-2 record, knowing that the Jazz and Clippers await, it will be a successful road trip. 4-1 or 5-0? That’ll be just downright dominant.
Monty Williams’ quote about everything we want rings true, especially entering this stretch. Because it will be hard.
Given the upcoming schedule, how do you think the Suns will fare?
What will the Suns record be at the end of Period 9?
This poll is closed
47-16 (7-0 in Period 9)
46-17 (6-1 in Period 9)
45-18 (5-2 in Period 9)
44-19 (4-3 in Period 9)
43-20 (3-4 in Period 9)
42-21 (2-5 in Period 9)
41-22 (1-6 in Period 9)
40-23 (0-7 in Period 9)