Without being premature, and living life beyond the fallacy of jinxes, we can tentatively take a look at the matchups the Suns may be facing in just a few weeks when the NBA Playoffs get underway.
Barring some kind of collapse by the Thunder that allows the Clippers to become the #2 seed, or by the Warriors, allowing the Suns to sneak all the way up to #6, there are only two realistic opponents that Phoenix could lock horns with.
First, would be the defending Western Conference Champions, the San Antonio Spurs:
Locked in as not only the #1 seed in the West, but the overall best team in the league, the Spurs are the only team to reach 60 wins on the year—and they still have five games remaining.
Maybe most remarkable about their record is the fact that while they employ stars, they are not a star driven team. No player on their roster averages even 30 minutes per game. On countless occasions, the charismatic-less Greg Popovich has decided he doesn’t feel like playing his superstars, and his team is still competitive in every single game.
The more you stare at their roster and attempt to comprehend how this is even possible, the Spurs are off in a gymnasium somewhere finding new ways to buck the system and just keep on winning. Tony Parker is their leading scorer, averaging just 16.8 points per game. Although Tim Duncan is nearly averaging a double-double, he and Tiago Splitter serve as the only real low-post threats. Seemingly, they are a team prime for a stunning upset.
With these two meeting on Friday night, don’t expect to see anything that could potentially give away some of Coach Popovich’s super-secret strategies, as he always holds his hand close. Tony Parker is battling back injuries, so seeing him in any capacity may be unlikely.
On the year, the Suns are 1-2 against the Spurs, but both losses came by just single digits. The lone victory came as a blowout in February, and was the last game the Spurs lost before they went on their impressive 19-game win streak. Even though the Spurs played that game without Tony Parker, the Suns were without Eric Bledsoe.
For this matchup to occur, the Suns would have to qualify as the West’s #8 seed. While no #8 seed won a series last year, the two years before that saw it happen. With the atrociousness of the Eastern Conference’s entire playoff scenario, any mediocre team knocking off the Heat or Pacers is downright improbable. Should Phoenix get their hands on the Spurs, things may become quite intriguing out in the Valley of the Sun.
Of course, the Suns could get hot (no pun intended) and find themselves playing the Oklahoma City Thunder:
You know the names: Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook. Together, they make the most lethal combination in the NBA. Not to mention, they’re still without a NBA Championship ring, so they’re hungrier than ever to get it done.
Logically, due to their lower seeding, one would think the Thunder would be the desired matchup for the Suns, should they have the option. Even though they won two-out-of-three matchups against them during the regular season, the Thunder epitomize turning up the dial come playoff time. You thought guarding Kevin Durant was difficult during the regular season? The Playoffs unleash a hungry beast that could only resemble Michael Jordan himself.
Although Eric Bledsoe is back and healthy, he is no Russell Westbrook. No player in the league may be criticized more than Westbrook, who constantly has to live in the shadow of the league’s youngest budding star. Walking a delicate tightrope between getting his own shots and making sure the perennial league MVP gets his, Westbrook leads a double life. It’s not hard to see that he wants to be the man, but he has to also play the role of Robin to Durant’s Batman. Unfortunately, for the rest of the league, the two are seemingly on the same page. Together, they may just be unstoppable.
Regardless of their ever-expanding surrounding cast, there are enough breathing bodies to make them a matchup nightmare. Serge Ibaka didn’t just obtain the nickname “I-block-a” for no reason. Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson have had coming out parties in the 2013-14 season and are now legitimate threats. From Durant on down, the Thunder may be the most difficult team to match up with over the course of a seven-game series.
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When it comes down to it, I’m inclined to believe that should the Suns be fortunate enough to make the Playoffs this year, the better suited matchup for this team would be the San Antonio Spurs. It sounds outrageous, but a fast, up-tempo Suns team may be just the remedy for a slower, ever-aging Spurs group.
In situations like the one the Suns have found themselves in, they are at the mercy of where the chips land. They do not get to select their opponent due to the high-level of competition in the Western Conference, but the fact that this conversation is even taking place is an astounding one.
No one thought the Suns could reach the Playoffs at the beginning of the year. So, why not shock the world and watch as David tries to topple Goliath?