So long as the Suns’ season must come to a disappointing end in the middle of April, at least a season finale pitting Phoenix against Golden State will give Suns fans one more taste of the good old days.
Of course, the last time these teams got together on March 15 in Oakland, the Suns ran out to 56 fast-break points – an NBA high since the league started tracking the stat in 1997 – to blow out the Warriors 154-130, racking up the second-most points of the past 10 years in regulation games.
As if you needed more reason to think this would be another shootout, the Suns lead the league in scoring (109.3 ppg) and the Warriors rank second (108.5). A Phoenix victory thus would obviously secure the league’s scoring title for a fifth season in a row.
The Suns, however, are a more efficient offense than the Warriors, ranking first in offensive efficiency (111.1 points per 100 possessions) to Golden State’s eighth (106.5). They have scored at least 100 points in 25 straight home games, including every contest US Airways Center has hosted this calendar year. That won’t change tonight.
Both teams also rank near the bottom in defensive efficiency (Phoenix No. 24, Golden State No. 28), and the Warriors lead the league in pace with the Suns just behind in fourth.
Although the Suns, of course, will be cleaning out their lockers after this one, they still have a few accomplishments to reach before heading home for the summer.
Phoenix as a team is on the verge of becoming the first squad to shoot better than 50 percent from the field in consecutive seasons since the 1990-91 and 1991-92 Chicago Bulls did so. The Suns shot 50.02 percent last year and are shooting 50.49 percent this season, a very safe margin heading into the final game as they would need to miss 72 more shots than they make to drop below 50 percent.
In the individual department, Steve Nash is threatening to become the first player to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free-throw line in three different seasons, and only Larry Bird has pulled that off even twice besides Nash.
Nash did it last season and in 2005-06 while coming up just one missed free throw shy of it in 2006-07 (he shot 89.9 percent from the line but apparently the statisticians don’t round up). He will pull it off again this season so long as he doesn’t miss five more shots than he makes.
Maybe the most significant achievement to the player himself would be the fact that Grant Hill is set to play a full 82 games for the first time in his career.
Hill logged 80, 80 and 81 games early in his career in Detroit, but then went through a six-year stretch in Orlando from 2000-01 to 2005-06 in which he missed 357 of 492 games (72.6 percent). Aside from playing 67 games in 2004-05, his high over that stretch was the 29 games he played in 2002-03.
For a 36-year-old, 13-year vet to finally play all 82 would be quite the accomplishment for the injury-plagued forward.
Finally, I hope this is the game the Suns completely turn the keys over to the kids. Give the starters the first quarter and then play the young guns.
I want to see how Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez and Jared Dudley play for 30-plus minutes at the blistering tempo sure to ensue against Golden State. Are these guys Kerr and Co. should want playing major roles in the future?
I want to see Goran putting up a 20-10 in a game that will essentially have the Coors Field effect on stats, and I want to see Robin Lopez swat some shots in this shootout to feed breaks at the other end.
But most of all, enjoy this one Suns fans, because it’s going to be a long summer.
And the Suns might not be the Suns anymore when it’s all through.