PHOENIX – In the next two games we will find out for sure if the Suns are also chasing the Trail Blazers and Jazz for sixth and seventh as well as the Mavericks for eighth.
If the Suns win in Portland tonight and Utah on Saturday, they will be within three games of each team and hold tiebreakers against both of them.
I went into detail about Utah’s brutal schedule last night, and while Portland’s isn’t nearly so stiff, it’s no walk in the park either.
The Blazers must still visit Houston and San Antonio and they will host the Jazz, Lakers and Nuggets as the season winds down.
The Suns would have a chance to win the conference record tiebreaker over Portland even if they lose tonight to split the season series, but I don’t see any scenario in which the Blazers collapse enough to allow the Suns to make up five games. If Phoenix loses tonight, forget about catching Portland.
However, the Suns have a lot of things going for them tonight despite playing a back-to-back while Portland has been seething back home since dropping an overtime affair to the Sixers on Monday.
First off, the Suns aren’t that bad in back-to-backs with an 8-8 record, including 2-2 when the first is at home and the second on the road.
They also have the services of a hot, who has posted consecutive 20-point games for the first time since his first month with the team in November 2007. He has also now led Phoenix in scoring in consecutive games for the first time ever.
The Suns’ bench, even without Leandro Barbosa, is getting hot at the right time. All five Phoenix reserves who logged time last night recorded a positive plus-minus, and Lou Amundson (plus eight),and Stromile Swift (both plus seven) put up the top three plus-minuses on the team.
Speaking of LB, he is progressing fine albeit with some soreness in his hyperextended left knee, but Gentry said the “chances of him playing on this road trip are very slim.”
For those of you who like random stats, the Suns likely won’t be happy that TNT is televising this one. Although Phoenix is 6-3 on ESPN, the Suns are a woeful 0-9 in games televised by TNT, and you wonder why Charles Barkley is so negative about his former club.
The Suns’ Dec. 18 loss to Portland in which Brandon Roy exploded for 52 is included in those struggles.
Looking big picture, the Suns are just fighting to get a chance to play a couple more times on TNT in late April.
“If that were to happen, I wouldn’t want to see us because of what we would have had to overcome to get to that point,” Hill said. “We would have a lot of confidence as well from playing so well, so right now we’re just taking it one game at a time, we’ve got Portland (tonight), and we lost to them up there in December, and we’ve got a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Check out a Q and A I did on tonight’s game with OregonLive.com’s Blazers Blog.