The return of Kevin Durant couldn’t come at a better time for the Phoenix Suns than now. Not only do they need the reps together, but solidifying home-court advantage in the process will be huge.
Minnesota currently sits just 1.5 games back from Phoenix, while the Clippers are 0.5 games back and Golden State is just 1 game behind the Suns. The Western Conference is an absolute cluster of teams fighting for the 4-11 seeds.
Phoenix needs to secure this win to gain a bit of breathing room between them and the play-in teams, but more importantly the Clippers and Warriors who are tailing them.
There are just seven games left for the Suns, and they’ll need to rattle off a few more wins to take firm control of that 4th seed. My guess is 4-3 with wins over the Wolves and the Clippers gets the job done, but that’s also dependent on what other teams do.
Final 7 games: vs. MIN, vs. DEN, @ OKC, vs. SAN, vs. DEN, @ LAL, vs. LAC
Home Court Matters
Over the past 5 playoff runs — excluding the bubble — the results tend to lean towards favoring the home team more often than not in the 4-5 matchups.
Here is the record of the 4th seed in the playoffs: (in parenthesis are series)
2022: 8-4 (2-0) — (4) Mavs defeated (5) Jazz (4-2), (4) 76ers defeated (5) Raptors (4-2)
2021: 5-7 (1-1) — (4) Clippers defeated (5) Mavs (4-3), (5) Hawks defeated (4) Knicks (4-1)
2020: Excluded (Bubble, no home court factor)
2019: 8-1 (2-0) — (4) Rockets defeated (5) Jazz (4-1), (4) Celtics defeated (5) Pacers (4-0)
2018: 6-7 (1-1) — (4) Cavs defeated (5) Pacers (4-3), (5) Jazz defeated (4) Thunder (4-2)
2017: 7-6 (1-1) — (4) Wizards defeated (5) Hawks (4-2), (5) Jazz defeated (4) Clippers (4-3)
- 4 vs. 5’s combined record: 34-25 (57.6% winning percentage)
- Series record: 7-3 (70% winning percentage)
Considering the near 58% winning percentage combined with 7 of the last 10 four seeds winning, I’d say it’s pretty important for Phoenix to lock in that 4 seed. While it’s a somewhat small sample size, it is still 59 recent playoff games to work with as data. And that data likes the home team.
The Suns' playoff crowds are well known for how disruptive and energetic they can be. Providing a spark to a team that will surely go through occasional slumps or growing pains will be vital.
The most important aspect of playing home games would have to be the boost it gives to role players. Role players always tend to step their game up at home, and the Suns' bench unit is still a work in progress.
A Terrence Ross or Cameron Payne microwave quarter where they take over off the bench is something I’m looking forward to. It’s going to happen at the Footprint Center at least once, I will speak it into existence.
Throughout NBA History, only five teams with the 4th seed have made the NBA Finals. The 2018 Cavaliers, 2010 Celtics, 2006 Mavericks, 1978 SuperSonics, and the 1969 Celtics. Of those teams, only the 1969 Celtics were able to win the NBA Championship.
The past two Champions have been the third seeds in Golden State and Milwaukee, however.