Before the 2013 NBA season many experts were writing the Phoenix Suns off and said that they’d be in the running for Andrew Wiggins, but Phoenix proved the critics wrong and won 48 games and finishing ninth in the Western Conference.
The 2014 season opened up with infinite amounts of more optimism surrounding the Suns and they have shown that they can live up to the hype. Following a five-game losing streak in early-December that dropped the Suns to a season-worst two games under .500 (12-14), Phoenix has bounced back and played playoff-caliber basketball.
Since Alex Len entered the starting rotation on December 17 the Suns have gone 14-6 and have moved into the eighth spot in the Western Conference, just three games behind the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.
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Phoenix (26-20) realizes that the Oklahoma City Thunder are right on their heels as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are back, but with Durant missing the last game and is out tonight (toe), it opens up the chance for the Suns to gain ground in the standings. Durant has missed 24 of 45 games this year for the Thunder who are an average 23-22, leaving them 2.5 games behind Phoenix.
If Phoenix wants to hold onto their spot in the playoffs they will have to close out their pre-All-Star Game schedule with a bang. They are currently 4-2 on their eight-game home-stand with victories coming against the Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Lakers, and Blazers. Their losses were to the Rockets and the Clippers, which were the past two games.
Washington comes into Phoenix tonight, followed by Chicago on Friday evening to close out the home-stand. The Suns will have to play top-tier basketball in those two contests to come away victorious against two perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Dec 21, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) drives to the basket as Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) defends during the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. Phoenix Suns defeated Washington Wizards 104-92. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Following the game against the Bulls on Friday Phoenix will alternate road and home games over their final six games of the first half with four of the six opponents currently holding spots in the Western Conference playoffs.
The road games include Golden State (21-2 at home), Portland (20-5 at home), and Sacramento (10-15 at home), while the home games will be against Memphis (14-7 on the road), Utah (8-16 on the road), and Houston (16-7 on the road).
It is a tough stretch to finish the first half, but the Suns have been playing well lately, especially with Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Dragic on the court at the same time. The health of big man Brandan Wright will also be key in this stretch to allow Len time to rest on the bench.
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