Few fanbases suffered the unique brand of agony that the Phoenix Suns faithful have thus far in 2014-15.
Six gut-wrenching losses that occurred within the last five seconds of regulation, five of them buzzer-beaters.
Had all those games gone the Suns’ way, Phoenix would be sitting at 45 wins and in the driver’s seat for the eighth seed. Even going 3-3 in those games puts them right there. Instead, they’re counting down the days to the offseason with just five games to go.
After making a series of deals at the trade deadline, the Suns parted with Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas – the end of a failed experiment of a three-headed point guard attack – and acquired Brandon Knight to complement a young core.
Aside from some of the recent struggles, the Suns have become one of the default League Pass teams to DVR because of their pace factor rating (99.0), good for third in the NBA behind Houston and Golden State, two of the league’s most notable run-and-gun teams.
Even with the acquisition of Brandan Wright, Phoenix has lacked consistent rim protection and has plenty of room to grow defensively, especially in rebounding, as the Suns rank 20th in the league with a defensive rebound rate of 73.6.
The front office, led by Lon Babby and Ryan McDonough, have worked quickly revamp a team at the trade deadline and demonstrated that the focus is to develop young talent for the future.
Rookie T.J. Warren and second-year guard Archie Goodwin have seen increased playing time in the aftermath of the Dragic trade. In a Western Conference that becomes more difficult to play in with each passing season, having a long-term vision isn’t easy, but the Suns are banking on patience to pay off in the form of a cohesive, young roster with a talented head coach in Jeff Hornacek.
Amazingly, despite all of the torturous losses, mathematics hasn’t eliminated them just yet.
The Suns’ chances are incredibly slim – PlayoffStatus.com gives them less than a one percent shot at clinching the eighth seed, trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder by three games – but it’s still possible.
The New Orleans Pelicans are a half-game behind Oklahoma City, and even their predicament is tough.
The tragic number to eliminate Phoenix stands at two, currently – a combination of a Thunder win and Suns loss will seal the deal.
Looking at Oklahoma City’s next five games, two are against the sub-.500 Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves, which can effectively be penciled into the win column. Games against San Antonio, Sacramento, and Portland will be effective tuneups, but there’s a solid chance that the Thunder at the very least go 3-2 in that stretch.
The Pelicans, if they advance, will have most certainly earned their way into the West’s final playoff spot.
Their regular season concludes as such, with six games that include the top three seeds in the conference.
- Golden State
- At Memphis
- At Houston
- At Minnesota
- San Antonio
While not as daunting as New Orleans, the Suns’ stretch looks much tougher than Oklahoma City’s on paper, with four straight road games (four of five against for-sure playoff teams) before closing out the final day of regulation at home. It also doesn’t help that Knight is likely done for the year with his nagging injuries.
- At Atlanta
- At Dallas
- At New Orleans
- At San Antonio
- Los Angeles Clippers
It’s hard not to look at this season and blame Phoenix’s misfortune on a whole bunch of bad luck, but no matter how they finish out this year, the pieces are in place for the perennial optimists to feel good about the Suns making a run – or if you’re a pessimist, they’ll be doomed to do it all over again next year just to fall a few games out of contention at the end.