While the NCAA is currently stealing people’s attention with March Madness; March in the NBA is certainly madness. Phoenix finds themselves a half game back from the 8th seed in the West. Although with the way the 1st seed Spurs (winners of their last 13) are playing, that 8th seed doesn’t look like paradise.
The Suns have won their last three games partially thanks to Eric Bledsoe’s return to form in the past two. Bledsoe is averaging 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in their last two wins while also contributing 2 steals against the Pistons and 1 against the Timberwolves. Bledsoe is not the only factor, as Markieff Morris has increased his productivity as well. Markieff scored 25 on 10-13 shooting and snatched up 8 boards as well. His twin brother Marcus Morris contributed 11 on 4-6 shooting and grabbed 3 rebounds himself.
For the Suns to win their contest tonight against the Hawks, they’ll need two things: production from their skilled backcourt and production from their bench and role players. Should the Suns win this game, it’ll bring their winning streak to 4 games and tie them up with the Mavericks for the 8th seed. Should be a good game between two teams each battling for playoff positions in their conferences.
The Suns are currently two games behind the 8th seeded Mavericks; but they are still celebrating today even after a loss yesterday. Offseason-acquisition Eric Bledsoe made his return to the Suns’ line up against the Cavs Wednesday night. He came off the bench and contributed 15 points and 9 assists to the stat sheet along with 2 steals. In his first action after missing 33 games, Bledsoe reminded all his skeptics what he was capable of and came back to play 32 minutes.
This next chunk of schedule is important for Phoenix, as seven of their next eleven games are against teams below the .500 mark. Though the Suns did recently just defeat the Thunder, they’ve hit a bit of a skid while the Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Warriors are all getting hot. Even the Knicks have been winners of five straight. New York fans must be happy with the Knicks’ recent winning as they’ve pulled within three games of a playoff spot this year and they’ll have Phil Jackson to pull free agents to Madison Square Garden and guide the Knicks deep into the postseason in the future (Knick fans hope, at least).
Gerald Green did not play well in Bledsoe’s return, going 4-14 and fouling out against the Cavs, and Phoenix couldn’t afford Green’s struggles with Tucker serving a one-game suspension for an altercation with Blake Griffin. Although Dragic scored 20 and had 5 assists, Cleveland still came out on top behind 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists from Kyrie Irving and a steady 19 point contribution from Spencer Hawes. Hawes went 3-4 from beyond the arc last night in a game where three point percentage was a real difference maker; Phoenix lost that battle by a large margin as they shot just 27% from behind the three point line while Cleveland made half of their threes.
Certainly as Bledsoe gets back up to game speed and plays among a very talented group of players in Phoenix, the Suns will make a push to make it to the playoffs. Being counted out in almost every game against contenders they play, every game has been like a playoff game for the Suns, and they aren’t backing down from the dog pile of a playoff scenario in the Western Conference.
While Phoenx recently defeated OKC behind a terrific performance from Gerald Green, they must hold back their sigh of relief another two games. They have back-to-back road contests against the Warriors and Clippers. The Warriors are just starting to heat up, going 8-2 in their last 10. The Suns will surely have a handful with Golden State’s diverse offensive arsenal. With only one game separating the Suns from the number 7 seed in the playoffs and watching the playoffs on TV, each of these next to games holds importance. In fact, every game down the ending stretch of the season holds importance for the Suns. With a hot streak, Phoenix could have home-court advantage for a playoff series – ironically the number 4 seed is currently home of the Clippers and only six games out of the Suns’ grasp. Wins against the 6th and 4th seeds, the Warriors and Clippers respectively, could bode well for Phoenix. There is no question that the Suns will come into these next to match-ups with a head full of steam after defeating the number 1 seed Thunder earlier in the week. Expect two very good games from a Phoenix team determined to make it to the postseason.