Dating back to an impressive, if unexpected victory over the Celtics on January 28, the Suns have quietly won 11 of their last 15 games, including four of their last five. Ironically, the Celtics bookended that run as well, knocking Phoenix off on Wednesday by a score of 115-103. Phoenix made a late run with a barrage of triples, going on an 18-0 run to close the first half and start the second. But as Boston point man Rajon Rondo said afterward, the game was never in question. And really, nobody expected it to be, as Phoenix was down by as many as 29 in this one, and clearly benefitted from a Boston team that momentarily hit cruise control.
But that’s okay. The Suns aren’t supposed to beat the elite teams. They’re not going to make the playoffs by beating the Lakers and the Celtics, or even the Mavs or Spurs or Heat or Bulls. No, they’re going to make the playoffs by doing what they’ve been doing since the All-Star break: getting fat on mediocre-to-terrible squads. So far in the second half Phoenix has feasted on, wait for it . . . the Nets, Raptors, Hawks and Pacers. And tonight they get another team in that category in the Milwaukee Bucks.
It’s a big game for the Suns not only because they’re currently running neck and neck with Memphis for the eighth seed in the West, but also because the Suns have proven to be particularly vulnerable to prolonged losing streaks on the heels of a nice winning streak. Five times this year Phoenix has won three or more consecutive games, and three of those streaks have led directly into at least a three-game losing skid. That’s how you end up playing .500 ball.
At this point in the year, losing streaks can’t happen. Phoenix needs to stop the bleeding before it starts and pile up as many wins as they can heading into the final month-and-a-half of play. Remember, of their 23 remaining games, 13 are against almost surefire playoff teams. Not a single winnable game can be wasted.
On another note, things got . . . oh, shall we say a little testy in Boston on Wednesday. You’ll remember that Suns coach Alvin Gentry commented that he’d lost some respect for Kevin Garnett after Garnett delivered a not-so-subtle shot to the man region of Channing Frye in the teams’ previous meeting. I don’t think the Celtics cared much, as bullies don’t tend to worry about the feelings of the kid whose lunch money they stole. However, to see the Suns play with some emotion was cool for me. I enjoyed reading Steve Nash’s lips as he tossed a nice little F-Bomb. I enjoyed Jared Dudley planting Rondo when he decided to throw up a 3-pointer at the buzzer just to rub it in. Personally, I think the Suns need some fire. That’s how the Celtics play every night, on BOTH ENDS OF THE FLOOR. And that’s why they win. People are quick to criticize Kevin Garnett for his intense style. But that guy comes to play like he’s trying to put food on his family’s table. I’m certainly not condoning shots to the man region, but the Suns have more than enough talent on the offensive end. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt if they started to play with a little chip on their shoulder. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to let someone know they’re there every once in a while.
I’m just saying.
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Written by Brad Botkin