Time: 6:30 pm MST
The Phoenix Suns head to the Staples Center tonight, enjoying the final bit of calm before the storm that is their April close to the season. The Suns have one more winnable game, and then eight games of storm that will decide their playoff fate. As of this morning, Phoenix sits in seventh place in the West. They hold a half game lead on the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, and trail the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors by 2.5 and 1.5 games respectively. It’s still more than feasible for the Suns to climb as high as fifth. It’s even more feasible that the Suns could miss the playoffs all together. To put a little more distance between themselves and ninth place, Phoenix has to take care of business against a Lakers team that is a shadow of its former self, but still dangerous if underestimated.
51 points in a quarter is awe inspiring. It doesn’t matter who was on the court for the Lakers during their third quarter drubbing of the Knicks last week. All that matters is their ability to put up a historic number of points in just 12 minutes. Though the Knicks have some definite defensive short comings, offensive fire power like that speaks for itself. The Lakers will not be a team the Suns can put away early and coast to the finish line against. LA, for all its flaws, injuries, and drama, can still score the basketball and surprise some of the best teams in the NBA. Just look at their win over the Thunder earlier this month. If Phoenix wants to win its eighth game in a row, they will have to fight their old Pacific division foes for all 48 minutes. For more on this game, let’s ask three preview questions.
Can the Suns complete the season sweep of the Lakers?
A victory tonight would be the Suns’ fourth over the Lakers this year. Phoenix has not swept LA since the ‘04-’05 season. A sweep this year would mean more than just four wins for the Suns’ season total. It would also be a symbol of the shifting power in the Pacific division. If this Suns’ team remains intact this offseason, they could easily bring out the broom for the Lakers again next year. Help is still a long way off for the purple and gold is seems.
Will Pau Gasol or Steve Nash have an impact in this game?
Nash returned from injury Friday night to play 15 minutes in the Lakers’ blowout loss in Minnesota. Nash hasn’t played two games in a row since before the All Star break, so there’s no guarantee he suits up against his former team. That said, Nash has yet to face Phoenix this year, and considering the fact that this could very easily be his last year on an NBA court, I could see him pushing through the pain to face the Suns one more time.
Pau Gasol has been dealing with vertigo for the last three games. He did not travel with the team on their recent road trip, and he is questionable for tonight’s matchup with the Suns. The Lakers fell to the Bucks and Timberwolves without Gasol in the lineup. The Suns could have a significant advantage in the paint if he doesn’t play.
Can Bledsoe and Dragic keep up their torrid pace?
Bledsoe’s four-game streak of scoring 20+ points came to a close against New York on Friday, but that probably had more to do with his only playing 31 minutes against the Knicks. Dragic had a monster game against New York, scoring 32 points, hitting five threes, and getting to the FT line seven times. Since Bledsoe returned to the lineup earlier this month, Dragic has continued to average better than 20 points a game. Eric looks like he is now back to 100%. Right now the Suns look unstoppable with these two driving one of the best offenses in the NBA. There is no one on the Lakers’ roster who can stop either of these guards. Look for them both to have big games once again.