The Phoenix Suns are currently sitting in the fourth seed with the Los Angeles Clippers half a game behind, and losing games that you should win is a quick way to lose home-court advantage in the first round.
How much longer can the Suns hold out without Kevin Durant in the lineup, the team struggled in a loss to a young OKC team and have five-way more difficult opponents to come before the reevaluation of Durant.
Is there a highway to the danger zone of missing the playoffs?
The recent injury to DeAndre Ayton won’t help as the Suns prepare for the desperate Los Angeles Lakers this week, the Anthony Davis mismatch with Jock Landale or Bismarck Biombo doesn’t play in the Suns favor.
The Suns have had five losing streaks of 3 or more games this season and cannot afford to have another one, three losses in a row at this point in the season can be a death blow and send Planet Orange into the play-in tournament.
Having one of the toughest schedules left without Durant is going to be a tall task, teams can now focus in on doubling Devin Booker and forcing the underachieving players around him to beat them.
The Suns sit at (38-33) after losing to the young OKC team on Sunday, a game that they had to have because the next five are a stretch that will probably determine their playoff fate.
The schedule ahead is the Lakers, Kings, 76ers, Jazz, and the T-wolves, all of those teams are playing great basketball at this point and all of them have had better supporting cast around star players.
The Suns Head Coach Monty Williams is still in the middle of trying to find a mix of players that can be a solid unit to hold up after the starters sit down.
The team’s best three-point shooters (Terrence Ross and Damien Lee) are the team’s most defensive liabilities and the team’s best defenders (Josh Okogie, Torey Craig, Ish Wainwright) are the team’s worst shooters from the perimeter as far as being consistent every night.
The supporting cast is going to be the most critical component in the playoffs for the team that wins it all, and Monty still has to find the most lethal combination of supporting players that will consistently be effective around Booker and Durant giving the Suns a great advantage.
Right now plugging in a Kevin Durant will fix most of the problems to get them in the playoffs and out of that play-in tournament, but to win the title the role players have to have the ability to perform their roles in the game’s biggest moments.
The next five games are absolutely critical to the Suns playoff seeding, they cannot afford to go on another losing streak of more than 2 games in the remaining 11 games of the regular season.
The re-evaluation of Kevin Durant is marked for March 30th and the next game after that is at Home to the West-leading Denver Nuggets, do the Suns play Durant then? Hopefully, by that time it is not too late.
Can they reevaluate KD earlier than planned? The answer to that question will be determined if they can stay in that top 6 in the West staying out of that play-in tournament.
Monty has to figure out the puzzle of how to play the bench combinations, Booker needs scoring help more than he needs defensive help. It’s pretty simple for any of the next five opponents to double booker and force the others to score enough consistently enough to win close games.
Look for the Suns to continue to move the bench line-up around to find that mix of players that will be ready for a Kevin Durant plug-in when he returns. The good thing the Suns have going on for themselves is that the teams around them (under them) are still losing games themselves, and that’s the only way the Suns are able to hold Durant out through the entire 3 week period.