EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

What’s at stake in each of the Suns’ remaining games?

Mar 21, 2023, 1:09 PM

Kevin Durant’s potential return after a reevaluation still sits a week out for the Phoenix Suns.

Meanwhile, his team is clinging to a first-round home playoff appointment as a top-four seed.

Eleven games are left in the 2022-23 regular season, and it is by no means easy.

The Suns have the fifth-best lineup of opponents remaining by record. Only one of those opponents is from the Eastern Conference, and only one isn’t in the playoff mix.

Here’s a snapshot at how the opponents are playing at this current moment and what those teams have to play for.

Wednesday, March 22 — at Lakers

Trending: Up

The current No. 11 seed in the Western Conference, Los Angeles is a half-game back from the three teams currently holding the last three play-in seeds (Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Utah).

The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 and could be reevaluating the health of LeBron James (foot) in the near future. Painful losses to Houston and Dallas (which is still without Luka Doncic) set Los Angeles back, but Anthony Davis and a rising Austin Reaves have been pulling enough weight.

Friday, March 24 — at Kings

Trending: Up

The Beam Team not only has a five-game gap on the Suns in third place but are just a game off of the second seed in the West, though taking that spot from the Memphis Grizzlies will get a little bit harder because Ja Morant is expected back on the court starting Wednesday.

Sacramento stuck it to Phoenix in their last meeting behind strong second and fourth quarters.

Saturday, March 25 — vs. Sixers

Trending: Up

Philadelphia is one of the hottest teams in the NBA and are nipping at the heels of the Boston Celtics, who have a half-game lead in the Eastern Conference standings.

The 76ers were on an eight-game winning streak before dropping a double-overtime thriller against the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

For the Suns, it’s good news their matchup is the second night of a road back-to-back after Golden State hosts MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid, who has hit 35 points in eight of his last 10 games.

Monday, March 27 — at Jazz

Trending: 50-50 ball

Somehow, the Jazz are still clinging to their postseason hopes after a busy trade deadline gutted more talent from the roster. Funny enough, the talent that left at the deadline  — Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt — are with the Lakers team right behind Utah in the standings.

Wednesday, March 29 — vs. T-Wolves

Trending: 50-50 ball

Anthony Edwards (ankle) and Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) could return this week. Edwards was injured on March 17, but Towns hasn’t played since Nov. 28. His presence could be a boost or a too-late addition for a T-Wolves team that struggled to fit the stretch big man next to shot-blocker Rudy Gobert in the first weeks of the regular season.

Saturday, March 31 — vs. Nuggets

Trending: Down

Denver has scuffled lately, with head coach Michael Malone going to the mic to criticize his team a week back.

They might just be bored sitting atop the West unchallenged. We’ll see if the Suns get a rise out of them.

Sunday, April 2 — at Thunder

Trending: Up

The Thunder have won seven of their last nine with notable victories against the Suns, Pelicans, Warriors and Jazz (twice). Certainly, that’s a bad matchup for the Suns as was exposed in their win against Phoenix on Sunday. In any case, OKC is fighting for a play-in seed.

Tuesday, April 4 —  vs. Spurs

Trending: 50-50 ball

It could be full-on “get wobbly for Wembanyama” mode here.

Thursday, April 6 — vs. Nuggets

Trending: Down

Another meeting that could foreshadow a 1-4 matchup in the second round if the standings hold as is.

Friday, April 7 — at Lakers

Trending: Up

There’s a high probability this one could determine Los Angeles’ postseason chances. Or at least, it’ll have seeding implications. However, the Lakers close the year two days later against Utah, which, again, could be fighting for one of the last play-in spots as well.

Sunday, April 9 — vs. Clippers

Trending: 50-50 ball

These two squads are 0.5 games apart as of Tuesday. Phoenix holds a 2-1 season record against the Clippers. Even if they end the year tied by record, the Suns are on track to hold the final tiebreaker (conference record) — unless they fall apart down the stretch in a significant way.

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