The race for the 8th seed never seemed like must-see basketball, but the Suns are aiming to prove otherwise. Today they find themselves on the outside looking in with the same record as the current 8 seed Grizzlies. This just goes to show how close the Suns really are. While going 7-3 in their last 10 games, including a terrific outing against the playoff-bound Trail Blazers, the young Suns are facing the reality of how tough the Western Conference really is. To put things in perspective – if Phoenix took their current 45-31 mark to the Eastern Conference, they’d be the number 3 seed and about ten games up on the 8th and final seed.
Now of course it is notable to mention that Phoenix would be the 3rd seed in the East, but the solid play of both the Mavericks and the Grizzlies is just as notable. The Memphis Grizzlies have won 11 straight games at home and are 6-4 in their last 10 and the Dallas Mavericks are winners of their last two – which includes a quality win against the Clippers and a Blake Griffin triple-double.The Suns still have six games left to clinch a playoff birth, and in the NBA that’s plenty of time.
Phoenix has a very difficult schedule to close out the regular season, with a game against the Thunder tomorrow and a trip to San Antonio to take on the Spurs next Friday. Although their upcoming schedule is difficult, they still have a road game against the mathematically eliminated Pelicans and a home game against the Kings. For the Suns to make the playoffs, they will need to capitalize on those two games against noncontenders because among their final six games are crucial matchups against Dallas and Memphis.
The Suns will hope to see more games like their last win against the Trail Blazers where they outscored Portland 30-13 in the fourth quarter. Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris each had over ten rebounds in the victory (16 and 11, respectively). Two very huge pieces to the victory were Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green. Bledsoe finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Green finished with 32 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.
Down the stretch look for production from every player mentioned above and of course Goran Dragic as Jeff Hornacek coaches this young bunch to a potential playoff birth in his first season in Phoenix. Whether or not the Suns end up in the playoffs, Hornacek certainly looks like as good a candidate as any for Coach of the Year.