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2011 NBA Playoff Race: The Phoenix Suns and Other Teams Fighting for a Spot

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns makes a leaping pass guarded by Jason Smith #14 and Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 30, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Hornets 104-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Avi ScherContributor IIMarch 25, 2011

"And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain..."

This means so much in the NBA for so many teams right now. The Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats in the East, and the New Orleans Hornets, Memphis Grizzles, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets in the West are all trying to get/keep the final spot in the 2011 playoffs.

The season is ending up as one of the best of all time. We are seeing teams that want to make the playoffs playing great basketball.

For example:

The Memphis Grizzles won three in a row including a win in Boston over the Celtics.

The Houston Rockets won five in a row, including a win over the Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics.

The New Orleans Hornets' amazing win in over time against the Utah Jazz.

And of course, the Phoenix Suns going to triple overtime in L.A against the champion Los Angeles Lakers.

We'll focus on five teams: Memphis Grizzles, New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers and Phoenix Suns.


Portland Trailblazers: 41-30, Sixth

I didn't plan to add the Blazers to the list, but then I took a look at their schedule and said that they are still not safe. With 11 games to the end of the season, the Blazers have a very rough schedule ahead.

They meet the NBA's best team—the San Antonio Spurs—twice, the thundering Oklahoma Thunder twice and the Dallas Mavericks, who want to try to pass the Lakers for second place so they can try to secure home court if they meet.

These are just the top teams that the Blazers need to pass.

They also have the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets fighting with them for a spot in the playoffs, which is not an easy task.

So even though Portland is four games ahead of the No. 8, Rockets they are not yet safe.


Trailblazers Schedule













New Orleans Hornets, 41-31, Seventh

The Hornets just got back from a great win over the Utah Jazz with one of the luckiest last-second shots ever.

The Hornets schedule is a direct fight for a playoff spot, meeting the Phoenix Suns twice, the Memphis Grizzles twice and the Houston Rockets at home for one game.

The Hornets will also be facing the Indiana Pacers, who are trying to keep their eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

So no easy games for the Hornets until the end.


Hornets Schedule












Memphis Grizzlies 40-32, Eighth

The Grizzlies have won three games in a row and had a great win in Boston without Rudy Gay, who ended his season with a shoulder injury.

The Grizzlies have a good schedule. Although they will meet the Spurs, Chicago Bulls and the Hornets, they will also face the Los Angeles Clippers twice, the Warriors and the Kings.

The question is this: Is the easy schedule the reason the Grizzles will make the playoffs or will they fall without Gay?


Grizzlies Schedule












Houston Rockets, 38-34, Ninth

The Rockets have won five-straight home games, including a win over the Celtics.

But their upcoming schedule won't be easy, meeting the Miami Heat in Miami, playing the Spurs at home and most importantly, facing the Hornets in New Orleans.


Rockets Schedule











Phoenix Suns 36-34, Tenth

There is no doubt that of the five teams I mentioned, I would love to see the Suns in the playoffs for two reasons.

First, I love a Spurs-Suns playoff series.  Second, Nash needs to be in the playoffs. He had a great season and this being close to the end of his career, he deserves to be there. (Even though the owner doesn't know what he is doing.)

The Suns had an amazing triple-overtime game against the Lakers in Los Angeles, showing that the Suns can play when they want to. Surprisingly, the Suns beat the Toronto Raptors the day after despite not playing well in back-to-backs.

The Suns schedule is very hard, playing twice against the Spurs, Thunder and Hornets and meeting the Mavericks and the Bulls on the road.

The only way the Suns will be able to make the playoffs is if they continue the switch they made and play each game like it is the seventh game of the NBA Finals.


Suns Schedule








A- Timberwolves

A- Hornets

A – Mavericks



Bottom line: The Grizzlies have the best schedule and if Rudy Gay's injury won't affect them, they will be in the playoffs. The Suns and Blazers have the experience needed to make it—the Blazers also have the record. But just like you can never count Nash out, you can't count out Chris Paul's Hornets.

But of course, I would like to see Nash and the Suns in the playoffs this year.


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