Suns' Opponents Providing Glimmer of Playoff Hopes
The Phoenix Suns are in the 3rd quarter w/ the Sacramento Kings right now, but the two teams above them in the playoff race - Dallas and Utah - both lost tonight. Dallas is now only 3.5 games ahead of the Suns for the 8th spot. Utah has been playing horrible lately and is nearly within PHX's reach as well.
While the odds are still stacked against the Suns, they just need to win their own games and not worry about what Dallas and Utah are doing. Everyone on the team has a mindset that they've entered a new season - one in which they need to win out to finish the season. A win against Denver the other night helped and (please don't jinx them) a victory over the Kings will pull them within 3 games of Dallas w/ a head-to-head match-up on ABC Sunday. They have the opportunity to move within 2 games of the Mavs and really put some pressure on them to win their games... winning under pressure is harder than it would seem.
The Mavericks have wild-card in their favor and that is the return of Josh Howard. Despite tonight's loss to the Grizzlies, Howard is that X factor that could help Dallas move to the 2nd round of the playoffs if they shut out the Suns.
Steve Nash has been exceptional for the Suns lately, but it might just be a little too late. Barbosa's injury did not help, but J-RIch and Dudley have both stepped up recently to help keep them in contention. Certainly, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes have contributed (off/on) as well, but they are expected to on a daily basis. Shaq has also been playing well, despite the easy-out he could take by playing w/out passion and essentially giving up on the season.