There is less than a week until Christmas, which means those casual NBA fans will walk in the door anytime now and see some startling things and have some questions.
What happened to the Nets and Knicks? Kobe and Rose are injured again? How are the Trailblazers so good? And those Phoenicians will say, how are the Suns so good and will it continue?
So, let’s take a step-by-step look at the Suns’ schedule through the All-Star break and see how difficult the matchups are, to predict where they will be sitting going into the second half of February.
Phoenix finishes out the month with probably a .500 record with their next two games against the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks who currently sandwich the Suns in the West standings. Then the Suns schedule has them play the struggling Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, followed by the (now) horrible Philadelphia 76ers. The last game of the month is crucial. The Suns have to travel to LA for a matchup with the Clippers, who seem to be the only team in the way of a division title and an automatic top-four seed in the playoffs. Taking a game from them in their building would be big towards the season tiebreaker.
The first month of 2014 is pretty easy matchup-wise, yet kind of a brutal on the Suns schedule time-wise. Phoenix plays 16 games in 31 days, more than December’s 13 games in as many days. This also includes a dreaded four games in five days all on the road killer. That’s two sets of road back-to-backs with only one measly day of rest in between. The kicker is the juggernaut Indiana Pacers await at the end of that stretch. That game is going to be a total disaster for the Suns.
The month starts out great with eight consecutive games against sub-500 teams (except Minnesota who is currently at .500). Then they play three games against teams with winning records in Dallas, Denver, Indiana, followed by the terrible Wizards then that crazy four-game stretch where the Pacers are the only team that scares you.
February (first five games before All-Star break):
The Suns only have five games in 11 days before the break and have to put everything into these games. They have four very winnable games against Charlotte, Chicago, Houston and Golden State, before playing the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in Phoenix right before the week off. That Suns versus Heat game will be a good measuring stick to see what Phoenix can do. The Suns can win that game. It’s on their home court and they’ll be playing better than they even are now. The Heat could be getting complacent, waiting for the postseason.
The Suns are currently 14-10 and I predict they will go 18-9 up through the break to have 32-19 record going into the second part of the season. If Phoenix could accomplish that, they would only half to play near .500 ball (15-16) the rest of the way to finish with a 47-35 record, which should easily place them in the playoffs. Also, depending on how the Clippers play, the Suns could have a top-four seed and some home-court advantage.