For the past few seasons, Suns fans have gotten used to their team living in an ugly grey area. You know the one: good enough to just miss making the playoffs, but not quite bad enough to tank and get a good draft pick. So even from the start of this season, we’ve lived by Jim Mora’s infamous post-game rant.
Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs!
Or at least, that’s the way it was until last night, when Los Suns snuck into the eight spot in the West after beating a weak Portland team. And thanks to Denver winning two straight over Houston, Phoenix is tied with the Rockets at 12 games back, but by the virtue of owning the tiebreaker, now cling to the final playoff spot. Now don’t get me wrong, the Suns still have a ways to go in order to make the dream of one last playoff run for Steve Nash and Grant Hill a reality, but last night was the kind of game Phoenix normally drops. You know it’s true. In must-win situations, even if it’s at a time when they’re on a hot streak and against a lackluster squad (a Blazers team without LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum AND Raymond Felton in this case), the Suns have found ways to lose these games. But not last night! Against the Blazers, the Suns remained dominant throughout. And the beautiful thing was, it wasn’t any one or two players pulling the load, but a collective team effort that got the W. Phoenix had six guys score in double digits, and Nash wasn’t one of them. They out-rebounded Portland and racked up eight blocks. In short, they looked like an actual playoff team.
Too bad things don’t get any easier for the Suns. Even though four of their remaining five games are at home, they are all against playoff-contending teams: Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah and San Antonio. And of course the easiest team out of that bunch (Utah) is the one road game. Meanwhile Houston gets Golden State and New Orleans twice along with Miami and Dallas. So realistically, the Suns need to win four of their last five to make the playoffs. That’s a pretty tall order, but it’s not impossible (technically). Phoenix certainly might come to regret a lot of bad losses in the first half of the season (disappointing L’s include the Hornets, Cavs, Nets, Raptors, Blazers and Warriors twice. Ouch). But what better way to atone for those embarrassing losses than to win four of your last five and enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the West? I say there is none. Let’s hope M-V-Steve and company agree.