Suns Set to Solidify Playoff Seed


Entering the month of February the Phoenix Suns held both a 28-21 record and the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Phoenix has 11 games on their dock for the shortest month of the year. Although they will play 11 games in 28 nights, the Suns have a 10-day hiatus due to the NBA All-Star Game in New York. Six of the 11 opponents are currently playoff teams, so the Suns have a great opportunity to strengthen their positioning in the playoff hunt.

Eric Bledsoe and Co. took on the Memphis Grizzlies on February 2, but squandered a seven-point lead with 1:35 remaining to lose 102-101. Markieff Morris had an open look from the elbow, but Western Conference All-Star Marc Gasol came out of the cuts to block the shot and deny Morris of a shot to win the game.

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There are just four games remaining until the All-Star break for Phoenix and the Suns have two home games and three road games still to go as they will alternate hosting a game and being visitors.

Phoenix will be back in action on Thursday, February 5 in Portland to take on the Trail Blazers on national television on TNT. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard headline the Blazers and have led them to a 20-5 record at home this year that has propelled Portland to 32-16.

If Phoenix can take care of business against Portland then the momentum from the victory could carry them to a three-game winning streak as their next two opponents are two non-playoff teams in Utah and Sacramento. Phoenix currently hoists a 17-7 mark against teams with a sub-.500 record and these two opponents fit that bill.

Coach Hornacek’s troops will close out the first with a home game against the Houston Rockets. The last time the two teams met James Harden nailed a buzzer-beater for the victory after the Suns used a 24-9 run over the final 5:30 in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 111-111. It was Harden’s first career buzzer-beater that resulted in a game-winner.

Houston is likely to be without Dwight Howard for a month according to Sports Illustrated.

A fair assumption is that the Suns (28-22) could at least be 30-24 at the All-Star break, with a shot of improving that if they are able to steal a win on the road against Portland or rebound from their previous defeat to the Rockets in January.

Following the All-Star break the Suns will play six games in nine nights with an even split of three road games and three home games.

Phoenix will play in Minnesota on February 20 to begin the second-half of the year. The Timberwolves hold a record of 8-40 and outside of Andrew Wiggins having a 97% chance at winning the Rookie of the Year award they aren’t playing for much. The Suns must come out of the 10-day break quickly against Minnesota and not allow it to be a trap game.

The following evening Phoenix will head to Chi-Town to take on Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. Phoenix’s last victory before their current two-game slide was a 99-93 victory over the Bulls at home on January 30.

After starting the second half with two games on the road the Suns will come back to U.S. Airways Center to take on the Boston Celtics. Boston has faltered as of late and have fallen to 16-30 on the season and are beginning a rebuilding process after trading many of their key players earlier in the year including Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

Phoenix will head back out onto the road following the game against Boston against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are another team that hasn’t quite lived up to expectations as they are 19-29 this season. In a very tough Western Conference the Nuggets seemingly lack the star-power and depth to contend with the playoff-caliber teams.

The final two games of the month at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs could very well establish the momentum of the team heading into the final month and beyond.

The Thunder are chasing the Suns and are currently three games behind Phoenix. Equally as important, the Suns are chasing the Spurs and are just four games behind San Antonio. With these two games as the final two on tap for the month of February, Phoenix can finish the month with a bang against two key Western Conference opponents.

Realistically, I believe that the Suns will defeat Utah, Sacramento, Houston, Minnesota, Boston, Denver, and San Antonio. Unfortunately I think that Portland, Chicago, and Oklahoma City have too much fire power for the Suns to handle and they will drop these three contests. At the end of February I believe that the Suns will hold a 35-25 record and will be well on their way to a 50+ win season.

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