Eric Bledsoe had his work cut out for him without Goran Dragic last night and he stepped up to the challenge. Bledsoe’s 30 points, 11 boards, and 9 assists just were not enough against the Spurs though. Aside from Bledsoe’s great performance, it was a battle of the Greens in San Antonio; with Gerald Green and Danny Green combining for 60 points. The Spurs were able to come back from being down as many as 20 to become 24-3 since the All-Star Break.
The hard fought loss dropped Phoenix to the 9th seed and a seat on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Whether the Suns will be playing in the playoffs or watching them will be determined in their next three games and a game on Wednesday night. That game Wednesday is the Mavericks-Grizzlies game which will be nationally televised on ESPN and all of Phoenix will surely be watching that one.
The playoff push is on now, and the Suns control their own destiny.
This should be a very interesting week of basketball.
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.
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.
Gerald Green had a career night against the Nuggets, finishing with 36 points. Of his career-high 36, 27 came in the second half and overtime. The final in Denver was 112-107 with the Suns coming back after going into the 4th quarter with a one point deficit. Phoenix played hard the whole game, with Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, and Goran Dragic all finishing with double-doubles and heads up late game plays to clinch the victory.
Hard to imagine the surging Suns dropping this one to the Nuggets without Ty Lawson and Dragic dishing a season-high 14 assists to go along with 21 points. The Nuggets saw a big contribution from a usual suspect – Kenneth Faried putting up 21 points and 11 boards – and received a pleasant surprise from Evan Fournier scoring a career-high 25 points and 8 rebounds. Fournier’s performance helped to account for the missing Lawson and Randy Foye’s off night at the point. Foye was just 3-11 from the field and scored just 8 points while fouling out. Lawson should be returning soon for Denver though, which is good news for Nuggets fans.
Good news for the Suns came from all angles: winning a close overtime game on the road, breaking the Nuggets’ eight-game overtime home winning streak, a career-high in points from budding Gerald Green, a nice start after the All Star break for Markieff Morris (13 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 steals), and the return of versatile guard Eric Bledsoe out on the horizon.