The Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. in Phoenix on Thursday night in what may be the biggest game for the Suns this season to this point.
New Orleans currently holds a two game advantage over Phoenix in the standings as the two teams sit in ninth and 10th place in the Western Conference entering play on March 17. The two clubs will square off once more after this contest on April 10 in the Suns’ 80th game of the season, but they must focus on the task at hand for the time being.
Anthony Davis scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds en route to a 110-106 victory in the first contest between Phoenix and New Orleans this season back in December. The Suns boast an entirely different look now after trading away Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas.
One of the newcomers, Brandon Knight, may miss the contest against the Pelicans due to an ankle injury suffered in the game against Golden State on March 9. Phoenix may also be without center Alex Len (ankle) as he has been listed as questionable.
If Phoenix is without two of their starters for this big game, it may come back to haunt them down the stretch. They have the potential of pulling within a half game of the Pelicans or falling two-and-a-half games back. Falling back in the standings this late in the season may be too tall of a task to overcome with just 13 games remaining after Thursday’s game.
Mar 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) is helped off the court after an injury suffered against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at US Airways Center. The Hawks won 96-87. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans is only a half game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for eighth place in the conference and the final playoff spot. The Pelicans can even tie the Thunder in the standings depending on the outcome of the New Orleans v. Milwaukee game on Tuesday.
Oklahoma City was dealt a possibly gigantic blow on Tuesday when it was announced that power forward Serge Ibaka would be out for four-to-six weeks as he had surgery on his right knee. The timetable for his return would be between the time the regular season ends and the end of the first round of the playoffs.
With the possibility of Oklahoma City to fall back in the final month of the NBA season, it is a realistic shot that it may come down to either New Orleans or Phoenix for the final spot in the playoffs.
Winning both games against the Pelicans during the push for the playoffs in the next four weeks is something that the Suns should be able to accomplish. If Knight and Len are both healthy and ready to roll on Thursday night, I expect the Suns to come away victorious and improve their chances of making the Western Conference playoffs.