The conventional wisdom was the Suns either had to win this one or go directly to the lottery without passing go and collecting anything. Well, maybe not directly, but certainly.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that afterwards I was tempted to revive and downgrade the prediction I was most notorious for in my heyday (okay, heyhour) to Suns In Sick.

But that was before I heard Coach Alvin channeling Yogi Berra after Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs drilled the Suns Tuesday night. Of course Gentry didn’t actually say, “It ain’t over till its over”. After all, he IS a college man.

But while his rhetoric was much more grammatical than Yogi’s, his message was essentially the same.

“This was obviously a tough loss,” he said. “In fact, it was almost like two losses. But it wasn’t the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. Dallas has a tough schedule, and we’ve got a lot of games ahead we can win. And we believe we can still make the playoffs.”

So take THAT, conventional wisdom!

Alas, while I hope conventional wisdom and I are wrong and Al is right this looked very much to me like the end of the line for the “P” word, and all that’s really left is the “M” word (i.e., miracle).

I don’t question the Suns are still mathematically alive. After all, six losses down with 18 to play is a mountain, but it’s not the Matterhorn. The real problem is not so much where the Suns are but who they are and how they play. (I know it’s technically only five losses, but as of now the Mavs have the tiebreaker, which makes it a de facto six.)

It may be time to pull the plug on expectations and accept this team for exactly what it is – a bunch with a decent amount of raw, albeit ill-fitting, talent and enough offense to have a shooter’s chance every time out but a defense that has more holes in it than Roger Clemens steroid story.

Because the 2005-06 Suns went on to win 55 games and the Pacific Division title and advance to the Conference Finals after losing Amar’e Stoudemire for the season, the tendency has been to sort of minimize his loss this time around. But the difference between then and now is that then Nash was three years younger and Boris Diaw stepped in and played brilliantly in Amare’s place, whereas now Nash is no longer young and Diaw isn’t here.

Matt Barnes has tried to take up some of the slack, but he has none of Diaw’s facilitating skills or court sense. And incidentally, there is one other significant difference between then and now. Those Suns were all on the same page, the same line even. These really aren’t.

So let’s not underestimate how much the Suns miss Stoudemire. I’ll double guarantee you that with him they would be a playoff lock (although frankly they wouldn’t go very far).
The bottom line: I’ll leave it to Shakespeare to channel Yogi and Al, namely and to wit: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”H

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