Preview: Phoenix Suns (38-41) at Dallas Mavericks (54-25)

Dallas Mavericks 115, Phoenix Suns 90

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With the postseason out of the question, is there really much left to play for? Is it worth it to keep running the starters out there and playing them 30 or more minutes, risking injury?

Ask Suns coach Alvin Gentry or any player on the team and you’d almost certainly get nothing but “yes.”

With just three games left, the Suns are playing for pride. If they win them all, they finish .500 and avoid a losing season. For a team one year removed from a Western Conference Finals run, that may be a hard pill to swallow, but it means something. The Suns went all in this season with what they had and it didn’t pan out, but being able to say they were not a losing team is worth fighting for.

It’s hard to argue that giving Steve Nash significant time is a great idea right now, considering his recent frailty, but he is a competitor and if he is able to, he’ll suit up for a game and demand to play in it. As The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro writes, Nash cares little about his possible assists title with the Suns out out of the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he’s calling it a season just yet. Neither are his teammates.

“We’re going to play the season out,” forward Hakim Warrick told Suns.com after Friday’s loss to the Hornets. “No matter what, we’re going to continue to go out there and compete.”

When the Mavericks are on the opposing bench, there’s always a little extra to play for. They’re the Mavericks. The No. 3 seed Mavericks. The Suns could play spoilers to the Mavericks’ seeding with a win, as the two, three and four seeds are within two games of each other.

Vince Carter may have summed up the season perfectly (Vince Carter did something perfectly?!) in his postgame remark Friday that the Suns’ Achilles’ heel has been holding leads late in games. Yes, Vince. Yes it has. The Sacramento Kings would agree. A few games here and there without the blown leads and this could be a playoff team.

“It’s very disappointing, because I feel that we’re a good enough team to first of all be in the playoffs; and, we’re a good enough team to establish a lead and really build on that, and we haven’t really done a great job of that,” Carter said after his 14-point night.

The Suns will try to avoid an 0-for-the season against the Mavericks tonight. Their greatest struggle against Dallas this year has been controlling the pace of the game. The Mavericks routinely set the tone and the Suns end up playing from behind.

Additionally, the Suns just haven’t been able make their three-pointers fall. The Mavericks have held the Suns to 11-of-56 shooting on three-pointers this season for 19.6 percent. That’s a team that can regularly hit 11 long balls in a game, yet they’ve made that in three games. The Mavericks are also one of just seven teams to hold the Suns to an average of less than 100 points in their meetings (did ANYONE think the Pistons would do that, too?).

Many Suns fans are already looking ahead to the offseason and a possible rebuild, and it’s hard to blame them for it. In fact, plenty of analysts probably are, too. But not the Suns.  For a few more days, the 2010-11 Suns have something to fight for.

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