The guest list for the Big Dance, NBA version, is finally complete. But exactly who will dance with whom and where in the West is still as undecided with only two days to go in the season as it was two months ago.
Shaquille O’Neal grabs a rebound against the Warriors on Monday night.
The Suns’ victory over the Warriors did lock idle Denver into the eighth spot, but NONE of the positions of the other seven are written in stone. Not One!
With the Big Picture so fuzzy, the plan here is to focus on the small picture — namely last night’s game. Mind you, it’s a little snowy too, but compared to the playoff picture it’s High Definition TV.
Early on in this game the Suns looked very much like a team that was ready for the playoffs, and the Warriors looked like a team that was already on vacation — showing little interest in passing and none in defense, and about as much emotion as a box of doorknobs.
It’s one thing to mail a game in, but it’s bad form to not even bother to put a stamp on it. And although they were still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt the Warriors played like they knew they were dead men walking.
But the Suns had another one of their patented 12-minute lapses of concentration in the third period and dragged the Warriors back into the game by the seat of their disinterested pants.
With their main man, Baron Davis benched, either because of lack of interest, 2 for 13 shooting in the first half, or fatigue, the Warriors went on a 38-19 run that propelled them into a lead that would grow to 11 points..
Fortunately, they still had nobody who could cover Amare, even a less than 100 percent Amare. The best they could do was foul him and he hit 7 of 9 free throws and scored 11 his 28 points to lead the charge. Leandro Barbosa sealed the deal with a three-point shot and then another basket, plus a key offensive rebound in the last two minutes.
“Well, we won,” said Coach Mike. “And I thought we looked really sharp at the end.”
That about sums up the good news. The potential bad news concerns Grant Hill, who left in the second period with a groin injury. It was not, for now at least, believed to be serious, but Coach Mike indicated Hill might be held out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday’s game here against Portland, adding he expects him to ready for Game One of the playoffs this weekend.
The other area for concern has to be turnovers. The Suns have broken out in a rash of ugly ones in recent games, and that Golden State outburst in the third period was fueled in no small part by seven of them.
But the bottom line: Not to worry. I have no idea who or where the Suns will play in the first round, but I like their chances going in as good as anybody’s. Maybe even just a tiny, tiny bit better. (The operative word there being “maybe”).
One reason for this confidence is that while the midcourse correction that brought Shaq here probably cost them top seed, it without question made them more playoff-worthy. The other reason is there is no 900-pound gorilla out there in the West. Just four or five 400-pound ones.