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Suns Seven Games at a Time: 63-game review, predicting the final 9

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The Suns went 5-2 through their toughest stretch of the season.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at New York Knicks POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

This is it. Your last stop before the ‘ole Griswold family truckster pulls into our final destination: the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

It has been a long journey through this muted NBA season; one that begin with the over/under for Phoenix Suns wins being set at 38.5. Phoenix has defied the critics and the oddsmakers, winning 71.4% of their games though the first 63 games of the 72-game season.

We’ve analyzed the journey together, breaking the season down into 10 periods and focusing on winning each of those stretches, seven games at a time. Through 9 periods of such analysis, here is how the Phoenix Suns have fared:

When you look at how they have performed, it is no wonder that they finished the 9th period atop the NBA with a 45-18 record following a 21-point victory over the Utah Jazz. The common theme that has equated to success all season long? Defense. The Suns are a team that never quits on the defensive end.

And what does defense do?


The Last Seven

Whew!

That last stretch of the season was the toughest, especially considering that entering the period the opposition combined for a .640 winning percentage. The top teams in the East. The top team in the West. And the Suns came out above .500.

You can’t help being excited about this team.

The Suns carry the second best record in the league against teams that are above .500 —24-9 (.727). Think back to the 7SOL Suns. The Steve Nash-lead Suns were fantastic and used to destroy the lesser teams. They would, however, struggle at times against the top-tiered competition, which would make you worry come playoff time. Here were their records against teams above .500:

  • 2004-05: 30-17 (.638)
  • 2005-06: 25-19 (.659)
  • 2006-07: 26-14 (.650)
  • 2007-08: 24-21 (.585)

Are those horrible numbers? By no means. The 7SOL Suns were continually one of the best teams in the NBA. They revolutionized the league. They just made me nervous come playoff time because I didn’t have confidence that they could beat the good teams. They proved me right.

The 2020-21 Suns, however, have been better against the best and it creates a confidence that I know I have not felt before. They can close games. They can play defense. They can win, as they displayed during the treacherous Period 9 stretch of the schedule.

The results of the last seven with pre-game odds (via FiveThirtyEight.com):

FiveThirtyEight’s odds had the Suns posting a 3-4 record during Period 9. Once again, Phoenix looks at the odds, chuckles, and brashly defies them.

How did the Bright Siders fare in predicting Period 9?

To the 19 of you who selected 7-0: hell yeah. 21% took a look at the stretch and thought, “Yeah. we can go 5-2. This team is good enough”. That 21% was right.

The 4 who voted 0-7? These are the same knuckleheads who join the live-stream during the Suns JAM Session Podcast and try to stir the pot. We love ya.


The Next Nine

Every period to this point has been through the lens of seven games. With 9 left to play, and the end goal being 10 periods of analyzation, we will look at the final 9.

Here is the upcoming schedule for Phoenix:

The Suns will end the season as road warriors; seven games will take place away from Phoenix Suns Arena. That is just fine as the Suns have the best road record in the league and are the only team without double-digit losses away from home (20-9).

Phoenix is a combined 10-2 against the teams they play in Period 10, having only lost to the Thunder (102-97 on January 27) and the Spurs (111-85 on April 17). The stretch features two back-to-backs: one that begins in Cleveland and ends the next night on Cinco de Mayo in Atlanta, the second ends the season in San Antonio against the Spurs.

How does FiveThirtyEight see the next seven playing out?

  • @ Oklahoma City ThunderSuns 84%, Thunder 16%. Suns -10.5 favorites
  • @ Cleveland Cavaliers Suns 78%, Cavs 22%. Suns -8.0 favorites
  • @ Atlanta Hawks — Suns 41%, Hawks 59%. Hawks -2.0 favorites
  • vs. New York Knicks — Knicks 19%, Suns 81%. Suns -9.0 favorites
  • @ Los Angeles Lakers — Suns 42%, Lakers 58%. Lakers -2.0 favorites
  • @ Golden State Warriors Suns 64%, Warriors 36%. Suns -3.5 favorites
  • vs. Portland Trail Blazers — Blazers 28%, Suns 72%. Suns -6.0 favorites
  • @ San Antonio Spurs Suns 64%, Spurs 36%. Suns -3.5 favorites
  • @ San Antonio Spurs Suns 64%, Spurs 36%. Suns -3.5 favorites

Nine games. Seven victories. If FiveThirtyEight’s projections hold true, Phoenix will finish with a record of 52-20. That is a .722 winning percentage. That would be the fourth best finish in franchise history, trailing on the 1992-93 and 2004-05 squads (.756) and the 2006-07 team (.744).

What makes the end of the season schedule intriguing is how it will effect the playoff seeding. I’ve made my case for the #2 seed but truthfully, with so many games left on the schedule, it is hard to foresee where the ideal foe the spot to land is. Focus on winning. Everything else will take care of itself.

Every team left on the schedule can be frisky if you are not careful. While I would like to see the Suns manage their minutes with rest in mind, you do not want to sacrifice momentum and continuity to do so. Blow out wins would be nice as they provide the opportunity for rest. But you can’t bank on that.

Here we go...the last stretch. Finish strong and stay healthy Suns.


Given the upcoming schedule, how do you think the Suns will finish the 2020-21 campaign?

Poll

What will the Suns record be at the end of Period 10?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    54-18 (9-0 in Period 10)
    (77 votes)
  • 16%
    53-19 (8-1 in Period 10)
    (162 votes)
  • 38%
    52-20 (7-2 in Period 10)
    (370 votes)
  • 32%
    51-21 (6-3 in Period 10)
    (316 votes)
  • 3%
    50-22 (5-4 in Period 10)
    (36 votes)
  • 0%
    49-23 (4-5 in Period 10)
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    48-24 (3-6 in Period 10)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    47-25 (2-7 in Period 10)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    46-26 (1-8 in Period 10)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    45-27 (0-9 in Period 10)
    (1 vote)
969 votes total Vote Now