Grant Hill proclaimed the Suns are “here” after a not exactly resounding win over the Hawks Tuesday night.
The Suns can take another step toward becoming that team they want to be when they take on the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets Thursday night on national television.
Granted the Nuggets are still playing without Carmelo Anthony, but that hasn’t stopped them from going 2-1 without Melo with a solid win over Dallas and a third win in the game he left early against Indiana.
And when things are all said and done, the standings won’t care that Melo missed this one when determining playoff seeding.
This should be a fun game to watch, and TNT’s audience will be treated to the Nos. 1 (Suns) and 3 (Nuggets) teams in the league in terms of true shooting percentage. Both teams also play at a quick pace, so points should be plentiful.
This game starts a brutal four games in five days run in which the Suns will pay back the calendar gods for playing just four games in a recent stretch of 17 days.
The Suns’ schedule has made it so we haven’t even talked about Shaq missing the front or back end of a back-to-back.
Shaq played and played well in consecutive games Dec. 29-30 with all the rest in between and missed the back end of a back-to-back Dec. 10 at the Lakers anyway to attend to the passing of his great-grandmother. I’m sure Shaq will play tonight, but there’s no way he plays in all of the next four games.
I bet he misses Sunday morning’s game at the Raptors to keep him fresh for the Boston showdown, but I wouldn’t rule him out missing Friday’s tilt against Minnesota either.
With Shaq playing so well of late, it will be interesting to see if his numbers take a hit as the schedule becomes denser.
The packed schedule coincides with the Suns going on the road for seven of eight, with Friday’s home game against the Wolves in between.
Although the Suns are 9-3 since J-Rich joined them, they’ve lost the only road game they’ve played against a good team (Dec. 18 in Portland). The other road games have been a who’s who of crappy Western Conference clubs (Oklahoma City, Memphis, Clippers).
For the Suns to be where they want to be they need to beat good teams on the road, and the Melo-less Nuggets would be a perfect place to start.