Playoffs? Suns will have to really earn spot
"We've got to treat every game as a playoff game," Suns coach Alvin Gentry told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo. "It has to be almost like a playoff game for us."
The Suns have gone 5-1 since, fighting their way into the conversation for one of the Western Conference's final 8 spots.
As it stands, even the most ardent pro-lottery guy (cough… myself…cough…) can appreciate the evolution this team has gone through and the fight they have displayed. The team that slumped to a 12-19 mark in mid-February is gone, replaced by a squad that competes every night out.
Are they perfect? No. This is still a team that lacks a go-to scorer and struggles to put points on the scoreboard late in games. They rely heavily on the three ball and have needed great games from guys like Shannon Brown and Michael Redd to come out with wins against some of the league's lesser teams.
But, unlike earlier in the season, they are getting those wins on a consistent basis, which is why there is renewed optimism on Planet Orange.
No longer is Shannon Brown the worst player to recently don a Suns uniform; Pat Burke, Paul Shirley and Sean Marks can go back to fighting for that honor. The guy has been a perfect fit in the team's starting lineup, providing a spark the team lacked -- and needed.
Combine that with some decent play out of Robin Lopez and Channing Frye along with the return of Grant Hill, and add it all to the consistency of Steve Nash, Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat, and all of a sudden the Suns have the look of a team that can make a playoff run.
Provided, of course, the Suns can finally solve the riddle that is good teams.
For the season, Phoenix is 14-19 against teams with a .500 record or above. Save a win over the Kobe-less Lakers last week, the Suns have beaten all of one team -- 30-28 Utah -- with a winning record since topping the Indiana Pacers on March 23. By the way, if the playoffs started today the Jazz -- like the Suns -- would not be participating.
Nobody should fault the Suns for beating bad teams. It's something they weren't doing with any consistency early in the season, and it's something they had to do to climb back into the playoff race.
Unfortunately for the team and its playoff prospects, though, the schedule gets a little tougher from here, as the Suns have road dates with the Grizzlies, Rockets, Spurs and Jazz along with home contests vs. the Trail Blazers, Thunder, Clippers, Nuggets and Spurs.
There will be no backing into the playoffs, that's for damn sure.
Sadly, it's tough to see more than three wins there, which would leave the Suns with a 33-33 record on the season. Would that be enough to secure one of the top eight seeds in the West?
This isn't to say the Suns have no chance. They've fought their way back into the mix, giving themselves a puncher's chance at having the right to get destroyed by the Thunder or Spurs in a first-round series.
But that's a hypothetical for later, and it will only happen if the Suns can beat teams who will actually be in the playoffs, unlike the majority of squads they've beaten in the "playoffs" Gentry said the team was embarking on a couple weeks back.