One step forward and one step back. That's how one might describe the last two Phoenix Suns games, as Planet Orange got an upset 98-91 win over the Memphis Grizzlies over the weekend and then suffered a 127-124 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves last night.
After experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the Suns (19-22) essentially wound up in the same place they've been for the past few weeks: A few games below .500 with the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs still tantalizingly beyond their reach.
Had Phoenix won last night's seesaw shootout against the T-Wolves, they would've helped their postseason dreams become more of a reality, as they were riding a two-game win streak. Too bad Minnesota's Kevin Love went on a hot streak in the fourth period with 13 points to bring home a win for his team.
It was purely a back-and-forth contest up to that point, as evidenced by the score at the end of each quarter. Phoenix led by six at the end of the first, Minnesota held a seven-point advantage at halftime and clung to a two-point lead going into the fourth. Each team had at least a half-dozen players boasting double-figure scoring and both were shooting above the 50 percent mark. The T-Wolves held the advantage with 56 percent (versus the Suns' 51 percent), and also had a hot bench all night as Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington each provided 15 points.
Meanwhile, four out of Phoenix's starting five began the game in strong fashion and built a five-point lead in the early going. The lone holdout was Marcin Gortat (9 points), who seemingly was whistled for fouls every time he touched the ball. He had just as much drama at the foul line itself, especially when the Suns had a chance to win at the end of the game.
Let's set the scene: 17 second left, Suns down by three after an intense fourth quarter of hot-shooting, lead-changing action. Gortat's at the charity stripe and fires off two foul shots. Both become bricks. Wesley Johnson, however, is successful with his foul-line buckets and Minnesota coasts to a win.
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If was a far more depressing outcome than two nights game against the Memphis Grizzlies, as Phoenix overcame a 11-point deficit in the first half on Saturday to upend the Memphis Grizzlies. Jared Dudley led his team in scoring with 19 points, followed by Gortat (who was having a much better game) with 15 points.
The Suns were also pretty hot on the glass and at the foul line, as they led in rebounds to the tune of 52-35 and went 12-15 on free throws.
If they can forget about last night's loss and channel Saturday evening's win, the Suns will definitely run roughshod over the Utah Jazz (20-21) tomorrow night at US Airways Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. For tickets and more info, visit www.suns.com.