Time: 6 p.m. MST
TV: FSAAs solidly locked into the eighth playoff spot as the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to be just more than a week ago, the Phoenix Suns’ double-dip in the NBA Draft lottery appears quite possible as Lindsey Hunter’s team plays the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
Last Monday’s 99-76 win by Phoenix against the Lakers was the first sign of trouble for Los Angeles, and at this point, the significance on the Suns’ end could be more than just another win against a rival. Los Angeles has dropped two games since.
And even though Utah looked doomed, the Jazz’s win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday brought them within a game of the Lakers. The Dallas Mavericks are also a game behind the Lakers.
So how much would a Phoenix victory in EnergySolutions Arena against Utah hurt their own chances at that second lottery pick? Probably less than might be guessed at first glance — unless the Jazz somehow find a magic answer to a rough patch in the schedule that has cost them nine of their last 12 games.
At this point, Dallas remains the frontrunner to pull the playoff seat out from under the Lakers’ behinds.
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The Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime on Tuesday, and their success is a mirror image of Utah’s. Rick Carlisle’s team has won nine of 12. Furthermore, it’s the Mavericks who have the Lakers once in their 11 games to play. Dallas also hosts Phoenix on April 10.
So in short, the Suns pulling off a win in Utah might not matter than much — might being the worrisome word for Suns fans.
Without looking at the peripheral NBA standings, the game at hand could be a grinding one. In two Utah wins and won victory by Phoenix, neither of the two teams have eclipsed the 100-point mark this season. The first meeting without Marcin Gortat to combat the large frontline of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap gives Phoenix an even greater disadvantage in the rebounding department but also a chance to get in the open court.
The Suns’ 102-100 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday showed a highly energetic team that despite the injury bug kept up with a decently-explosive team. Hunter even sent the Suns home with a congratulatory postgame speech despite the loss — even moral victories are hard to come by these days.
If that effort and energy is retained, the Suns very well could have a shot to bring down the Jazz.
And with that, Phoenix just might run the risk of stymieing its own lottery chances. But with the goal of building a winning culture, don’t expect them to care.