If only the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks could play a game for the 8th seed! Oh wait...
Did you hear the same sound as me over the weekend?
The sound of another nail being hammered in the Suns' coffin?
The formerly most beloved team in the league lost two major games this week. The first against Portland (which would have been kind of forgivable, except that they used a lot of energy in coming back from a double-digit deficit and then gave away their own 7 point advantage) and then they lost to the Kings.
Yeah, the Sacramento Kings...I don't think that needs much explaining.
At the end of the day, its another loss that the team really could have done without. They're just lucky that the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers as well. That means they're 3.5 games behind the Mavs, which isn't brilliant but it could be worse. They haven't been eliminated from playoff contention just yet. So that’s the scene...
Now just imagine that Mr. David Stern got creative and said ''Hey, forget this record nonsense, the Suns and Mavs can play a game...and whoever wins gets in the playoffs! Twitter about that Cuban!'' That would be pretty cool, but it probably won't happen anytime soon, but don't get too down about it, because the reality isn't all that far away...
On Sunday 5th April, the Phoenix Suns will travel to Dallas to face off against the Mavs in a big showdown...not as big as their western conference finals a few years ago, but as far as this year goes pretty big. It’s unlikely that it will be this game that can actually decide who makes that playoff seed, but it is definitely going to have a big impact. If the Suns lose, they can almost kiss goodbye to the playoffs for the first time since 2003.So considering this game kind of decided who goes home early and who doesn't, lets quickly look at the teams' match-ups and see who comes out on top...
Steve Nash vs. Jason Kidd
A few years ago, we would have salivated over this match-up between the two best point guards of this decade (Chris Paul has dibs on next decade). Though both have had better days, they are still both excellent guards. Nash though, is still a bigger threat on the offensive end than Kidd has ever been, and is a few years behind him in the age stakes.
Winner: Steve Nash
Jason Richardson vs. Jason Terry
J-Rich has settled into Phoenix well and excels in the run-and-gun offense, he can go off on any given night. Jason Terry has had a career year and is nearly a shoe-in for the sixth man award (even though hes starting now).This is definitely one of the closer match-ups, and Richardson does have a big size advantage, but Terry is a much bigger part of the offense in Dallas and will get more time due to Josh Howard's injuries.
Winner: Jason Terry
Matt Barnes vs. Antoine Wright
This is one of the more underwhelming match-ups, but it could possibly be alot more interesting if Josh Howard is able to be back on the court. At the moment though, Antoine Wright will have to fill that spot.
Neither are one of the main guys, but Matt Barnes is more important to the Suns and is one of those energy guys that can make a big difference in the important games.
Winner: Matt Barnes
Grant Hill vs. Dirk Nowitzki
This would have been THE match-up if only Amare was still around. Watching him and Dirk go at it in their vastly different styles would have been very enjoyable, but its not to be. Grant Hill is obviously at a size disadvantage at this position, but you have to love this guy after everything. But that doesn't change the fact that Dirk is a guy who you can still make a valid argument for the MVP. There's almost no contest. Hill is more likely to spend time at the small forward position anyways.
Winner: Dirk Nowitzki
Shaquille O'Neal vs. Erick Dampier
A repeat of the physical match-up from the 2006 finals. Shaq got the better of Dampier then and probably will again, Dampier fills his role effectively, bumping people and slamming put-backs every now and then, but this is the Big Cactus, the all-star co-MVP. No Contest.
Winner: Shaquille O'Neal
Dallas do have some good role players coming off the bench, but they are mainly guys who fall into that energy category, finishing Kidd alley-oops and so on, they don't really have anyone who will consistently give you double figures. Phoenix’s bench is mainly the same, except if Leandro Barbosa is able to get past his tibia bone bruise, in which case he becomes a huge factor.
Winner: Phoenix Bench
Alvin Gentry vs. Rick Carlisle:
Alvin Gentry has done a respectable job of making the guys in Phoenix at least half-happy again and reinstating the run and gun style, but he still doesn't have the experience of Rick Carlisle, who has done a better job than many thought he would in Texas.
Winner: Rick Carlisle
So, Phoenix wins the match-ups, but do they win the game?
If it was only that simple...Phoenix has played the Mavs three times already this year and lost twice, so who's to say? Not only that, but while the Mavs do have pressure on them to maintain the 8th seed, it is nothing compared to the pressure the Suns face...
What surprises me is how little people are talking about the whole Steve Nash-Dirk Nowitzki storyline. Both of these teams are ageing, and whichever one misses the playoffs (and the possibly the one who loses to the Lakers) have a lot riding on this season. It is almost a validation. Neither will win the title anytime soon so this is the best they've got. While neither Steve or Dirk are exactly on the trading block, their teams are going to go through very heavy changes soon, especially the one who loses out on the NBA's real season.
April 5th is a big date for both teams, whatever Stern may say.
There may well be another nail hovering above that coffin...
By Joe Buckley
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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