Another double-digit halftime lead evaporated in a disastrous third-quarter collapse. Another heartbreaking road loss against a tough playoff team that came down to the wire. Another game with a less-than-100 percent Goran Dragic. But before fans give up on the Phoenix Suns and the frequent cardiac arrests that go with them, here’s another reminder that Jeff Hornacek‘s team can still make the playoffs and that even if they don’t, this has still been a remarkable season for the Sunderellas.
The Suns didn’t make life easy on themselves by blowing an 11-point halftime lead against the Dallas Mavericks last night. As I wrote in my pregame breakdown of what Phoenix needed to do to win this game, Monta Ellis and one random bench player had hurt the Suns in their prior two meetings with the Mavs. Ellis was averaging 21.5 points and eight assists per game coming into last night’s contest; he finished with a season high 37 points and five assists. As for the one random role player, Brandan Wright echoed his 19 bench points in the first meeting with 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks (including the game-saving block on Eric Bledsoe) last night.
After starting the game looking disinterested and committing four turnovers, Bledsoe came to life in the second quarter and ended up being one of the few Suns players who had a great game: 29 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals while going 11-of-15 from the floor. Unfortunately, Dragic looked like he was about 60 percent on his injured ankle and struggled to the tune of 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Channing Frye, who had made just five of his prior 31 3-point attempts entering the night, busted out of his shooting slump by putting up 21 points on 5-of-6 shooting from downtown, but his big night was wasted in the loss. The Suns shot 61 percent from the floor in the first half … and finished at just 46 percent for the game.
Great game. Wish the Mavs and Suns were battling in a series instead of battling for the right to play in one
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 13, 2014
It was a series of costly second half mistakes that sunk the Suns. In order: leaving Monta Ellis open for back-to-back corner threes in transition; leaving Dirk Nowitzki open from downtown on back-to-back possessions after holding him to two points in the first half (he finished with 23); Channing Frye leaving Dirk open for three again; a Frye turnover that led to a Monta Ellis layup; Bledsoe missing the second of two free throws that would have tied the game at 99 with 52 seconds to play; Gerald Green‘s terrible fadeaway jumper miss on a fast break that would have given the Suns the lead with 26 seconds to play; and of course, failing to capitalize on Ellis missing the second of two free throws in the game’s final minute twice.
It was the same kind of gut-punch fans felt Friday night, only about ten times worse. From here, Phoenix has to beat the Memphis Grizzlies at home on Monday and the Sacramento Kings on the road in the final game of the season while also hoping the Grizzlies drop at least two of their last three games against the Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. It’s going to take winning out and two Memphis losses for the Suns of Anarchy to get a crack at the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Suns fans will be sure to turn out for the biggest game of the year Monday night against a Memphis team that is already 3-0 against Phoenix this season. If the Grizzlies are able to get this road win, they clinch a playoff berth and the clock strikes midnight on the Sunderellas. But no matter what time that clock reads tomorrow night, that big ball of fire that has entertained basketball fans all season long won’t turn back into a plain pumpkin. This young and athletic team has a bright future and the effort they’ve put forth should be enough to not only keep Eric Bledsoe around, but attract a big-name free agent in the future as well. As much as the playoffs feel like the only reward this surprising Suns team deserves after such an overachieving season, the Phoenix Suns are a team to believe in no matter what happens on Monday.