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ESPN simulations: Phoenix Suns unlikely to make playoffs

The Phoenix Suns missed the playoffs by one game last season. According to some ESPN simulations, they are likely to miss the playoffs again.

The Suns only reach the playoffs in 18.6 percent of the 1,000 simulations in the Insider report by Kevin Pelton. They hold the eighth and final playoff spot at the moment with their 29-24 record, three games worse than their record after 53 games last year.

Phoenix, the ninth-place New Orleans Pelicans and the 10th place Oklahoma City Thunder are all within two games of each other. The Thunder trail by only one in the loss column after the Suns had their fourth buzzer-beating loss of the season Sunday to the Sacramento Kings.

Even with the best position in the standings out of the three teams in the mix for the final spot, the Suns have the lowest chance to actually make it. The Thunder, with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, have a 60.5 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Pelicans made it in 26.2 percent of the simulations.

Unbelievably, the Suns suffered another heartbreaking loss Sunday night when DeMarcus Cousins’ shot at the buzzer bounced on the rim three times before rolling around and through to break a tie and hand Phoenix an 85-83 defeat at Sacramento. The loss was the Suns’ fifth of the season by precisely two points, and ninth by three points or fewer; they’re 2-9 in games decided by a single score. Only the Indiana Pacers (2-10) have a worse record in such games.

Obviously, the race for eighth would look dramatically different had Phoenix even gone 5-6 in those games. The Suns would then have an enormous five-game lead over the Thunder. Yet oddly Phoenix doesn’t actually qualify as unlucky in terms of expected record based on point differential. The Suns have a tendency to get blown out when they play poorly (they’ve lost five times by 20-plus points, the most of any above-.500 team), so their point differential (plus-1.4) is slightly worse than Oklahoma City’s (plus-1.5). That makes it unlikely the Suns will improve much on their 45-win pace with their current personnel.

The Suns just missed the playoffs with 48 wins last year, so it seems their current pace might not be good enough for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.