Not that the Suns have had any trouble running against even the slowest of teams in the Alvin Gentry Era, but with the Denver Nuggets in town, this one’s sure to be a track meet.
The Nuggets enter the game sixth in the NBA in pace factor and will be more than happy to oblige the Suns’ fast tempo.
Then again, the Suns aren’t just fast, they’re efficient at a record pace. John Hollinger wrote last week that the Gentry Suns would be the most efficient offensive team in NBA history if they were to keep up what they’ve done the past month for a whole season, and their 126 and 128 points totals last week do nothing to dissuade that argument.
Phoenix has even overtaken the Lakers for the most efficient offense in the NBA over the course of the season, with the Suns now averaging 111.0 points per 100 possessions. Too bad they rank 23rd in defensive efficiency yielding 107.9 points per 100, but at least we’re back to the same old Suns.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, rank 11th in offensive efficiency (106.6 points per 100) and seventh in defensive efficiency (103.2 per 100).
A trip to Denver started the Suns’ tailspin back in the middle of January. Phoenix entered the Mile High City feeling good about a three-game winning streak and a 22-13 record.
After a game the Suns feel they should have won when Grant Hill appeared to draw a foul in the final seconds of regulation before they lost in overtime, Phoenix proceeded to lose to the Wolves at home and suffer through that garbage stretch at Boston, New York and Charlotte.
Not too much has gone right since then before the Suns’ recent four-game winning streak.
I might add that since what I officially call “Black Thursday,” the day a week and a half ago when Arizona lost to ASU in the Pac-10 Tournament to seemingly be eliminated from NCAA Tournament consideration and the Suns lost to Cleveland for their sixth defeat in a row, neither basketball team has dropped a game.
The Wildcats are sitting pretty as the only Cinderella team in a chalky Sweet 16 (good call, Robin Lopez), and the Suns have made up 2 1/2 games on the Mavericks to cut their lead for the final playoff spot down to 3 1/2 games.
Of course, the only playoff team Phoenix has beaten during this stretch was a 35-33 Philly team, so gaining ground won’t be so easy this week when Phoenix takes on four Western Conference contenders, Denver, Utah, Portland and Utah again, the latter two being on the road.
By this time next week we’ll have a much clearer picture of the Suns’ potential playoff future.