A playoff berth seemed impossible for the Phoenix Suns as they prepared for the NBA restart in Orlando throughout the month of July.
However, after winning each of their first seven games, the Suns are on the verge of a play-in series for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN noted the Suns can clinch a spot in the play-in by ways of multiple scenarios.
With the Suns about to win their seventh (!) game in a row in the bubble, to get into the play-in tournament the Suns will need to beat Dallas again Thursday, have the Blazers lose either tonight or Thursday against Brooklyn OR for Memphis to lose to both Boston and Milwaukee.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) August 11, 2020
For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume Phoenix will indeed clinch a spot in the play-in series. The Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs are all still in the mix, making for quite a bit of craziness.
Which of these teams would be the best matchup for the red-hot Suns? Time for a closer look.
Any series between Portland and Phoenix would likely result in plenty of offensive fireworks.
Devin Booker and Damian Lillard have been two of the best players in the “bubble” and neither team has a real defensive “stopper” capable of checking the two stars.
Gary Trent Jr. and Mikal Bridges would figure to draw tough assignments, though Trent is hardly a defensive savant and Bridges would probably match up with C.J. McCollum.
Nonetheless, while the explosiveness would likely occur in the backcourt, the frontcourt might be the key to any series between the Trail Blazers and Suns.
The Suns have dominated the glass in Orlando, but they have also had the good fortune of playing against teams lacking frontcourt depth. This is not an issue for Portland, particularly now that both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are healthy. However, the Blazers have been outrebounded quite a bit during the restart.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs might be the worst match-up for the Suns.
San Antonio has multiple players capable of stretching the floor, with DeMar DeRozan dominating in the mid-range and Jakob Poeltl making tremendous strides as a shot-blocker and rim protector on the defensive end.
Guys like Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Drew Eubanks are versatile in their ability to stuff the stat sheet and disrupt things in the passing lanes.
Not to mention, the Spurs are simply playing good basketball — with both of their losses coming by single digits.
Things have not gone according to plan for the Grizzlies in Orlando.
Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks have actually played pretty well in spite of the team’s 1-6 mark in the restart. But Memphis lost Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jonas Valanciunas has mostly been a non-factor. The Grizzlies are also giving major minutes to Grayson Allen.
Memphis has really had a hard time scoring despite offensive output soaring across the board in Orlando.
It would be easy to say the Grizzlies are Phoenix’s best matchup simply because they are struggling.
Memphis’ frontcourt has been mostly ineffective, which should bode well for Deandre Ayton. Moreover, the Grizzlies lack someone who can just go get a bucket.
That should not be a problem for the Suns, as Booker is playing some of his best basketball of the season. However, it remains to be seen if the Grizzlies can also make the play-in, especially after another loss to Boston that put them in a four-way tie with the Suns, Spurs and Blazers (before Portland’s game against the Mavericks).