Of all the teams not in a playoff position, which one would you most want to go and watch? If you are some sort of sadist, the kind of person who in their childhood pulled the legs off of grasshoppers, then you might answer Sacramento or Washington. But for all the people in the world who aren’t a little deranged, the answer has to be Phoenix.
A Phoenix team doing D’Antoni better than D’Antoni does D’Antoni makes for one of the most exciting teams in the league, regardless of standings, and it would seem that a looming trip to lottery land has not only caused a reversion to past strengths, but has also ignited the Suns into a late season push for the last playoff spot. This is where the Suns differ from the other great entertainers out West, the Warriors, who have all the flash but lack the purpose that has been instilled into a Phoenix team where failure is simply not an option.
Their win over Denver gives the Suns a 5 game winning streak, second hottest in the league behind the Cavaliers, and also, and most importantly, hope: Dallas is faltering and Phoenix is capitalising. Over the past 11 days the Suns have gained 3 games on the Mavericks, placing them just 3 games behind Los Mavs for the 8th seed. There is blood in the water and the Suns are closing in.
It would hardly be surprising if it emerged that mention of choking in Dallas had become an offence punishable by lengthy incarceration. Surely now would be the opportune moment for the Phoenix audio-visual team to mail the Dallas franchise a compilation of the Texas franchise’s ‘greatest hits’: first round exit to the Warriors, Finals capitulation etc. Maybe Steve Kerr could smuggle a new NBA ad onto our screens, ‘Dallas, where choking happens.’
The most worrying thing for the Mavericks is that so close to the end of the season the Suns are in possession of the most prized asset in sports: momentum. And, with Shaq acting as the Juggernaut from X-Men, the Suns look like an irresistible force that can’t be slowed down.
The team’s mission statement of 7 seconds or Shaq is looking real good right now. In their last 4 games they have averaged 131.5, passing Golden State as the League’s best scorers overall: 108.8. That is straight up madness. One reason for the Suns resurgence is their bench has started firing. On first glance the Phoenix bench looks weak when compared to certain other teams out West, especially as Leandro Barbosa is down for a few weeks. But they have seemingly found another gear and have started having real impact on games.
Check out Jared Dudley against Denver: 12 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. Goran Dragic had 8 points and 3 assists. Louis Amundson contributed 7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocked shots. That is the type of bench that the Suns will need the next three weeks if they want to make the playoffs.
Can they do it? Yes. Definitely. 3 games are not many, especially for a team scoring the same amount of points as their point guard weighs.
And there is just something about backing Dallas in situations like this: you could set your watch by Maverick post season capitulation.
3 games up, 3 weeks to go. Mavs going home early?
Don’t forget your fishing rod, Dirk.