A recent slide saw the Suns fall out of the playoff picture, after putting together a surprising start that had kept them in the West’s top eight all season long.
Every win is critical now as they attempt to climb back into it, and Phoenix managed to win its third straight on Sunday, a 127-20 triumph over the Timberwolves that now has them within a half-game of returning to the postseason race.
Minnesota got off to an incredibly strong start offensively, building a first-half lead of as many as 22 points while putting 73 on the scoreboard in the game’s first 24 minutes.
But the Suns clamped down defensively in the second half, and had cut the lead to just 10 by the time the fourth quarter began. From there, the activity level increased even more, and Phoenix held their opponent to just 5-of-21 shooting in the final period, while forcing six turnovers and outscoring Minnesota 34-17 over the final 12 minutes.
Kevin Love put up video game numbers as usual, finishing with 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. But he was just 2-of-8 in the fourth as the game was slipping away, and committed a key turnover with under a minute to play that hurt his team’s chances.
Markieff Morris led the way for Phoenix off the bench with 25 points and eight rebounds, while the Suns put together a typically balanced attack that saw six players finish in double figures.
The playoffs are within reach for Phoenix, with just two and a half games separating them from the sixth seed in the West. The Suns would prefer not to have to put together miraculous comebacks on the road to get there, but it’s good to know that they can overcome this type of adversity when absolutely necessary.
Richard Jefferson announced his retirement after the Cavaliers won the 2016 championship, changed his mind, re-signed with Cleveland then played another season there. He played big playoff minutes for the Cavs both years.
But they traded him to the Hawks (who waived him, allowing him to sign with the Nuggets) in a rather abrupt end to his Cleveland tenure.
His exit could have been far more strained.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Then he was nearly traded the summer after the championship because he revealed what the Cavs’ rings looked like on his Snapchat account before the team was ready to release them to the public. Then-GM David Griffin was so ticked that he was ready to ship him out of town, sources told ESPN, before eventually calming down and accepting Jefferson’s apology.
Talk about some petty nonsense. And Griffin was known for soothing tension!
Thankfully for Jefferson – at least if he wanted to stay in Cleveland – he revealed the ring design in September. As a newly signed player, he couldn’t be traded until Dec. 15. That gave Griffin time to cool down.
Carmelo Anthony wanted to be traded to the Houston Rockets. Badly. (Whether that was good for Houston is a different discussion.) His time in New York was over by mutual consent, but now was time to move on, however, thanks to a no-trade clause Phil Jackson gave him, Anthony had leverage. And he wanted to be a Rocket with James Harden and Chris Paul.
It looked at one point like a deal would get done between New York and Houston, then it fell apart. So what happened?
Phil Jackson was booted, that’s what happened, Anthony told Marc Stein the New York Times.
The delay to find a workable trade, in Anthony’s view, stemmed from the fact that Jackson was willing “to trade me for a bag of chips,” while Scott Perry, who became the Knicks’ new general manager after Jackson’s departure, took a harder line in trade talks with Houston and Cleveland that eventually fizzled.
“They went from asking for peanuts to asking for steak,” Anthony said with a laugh.
‘Melo can laugh, he landed in a good spot with Oklahoma City. He’s on a potential contender.
As for his feelings on Jackson and leaving the organization? Still some hard feelings there.
“There was no support from the organization,” he said. “When you feel like you’re on your own and then on top of that you feel like you’re being pushed out …”
Kobe Bryant has been there. He tore his Achilles at an age most players would have said: “that’s it, I’m out.” Not Kobe. He fought through it, came back, and was able to leave the game on his terms — and with a 60-point night.
So when Kobe sends an Instagram recovery message to Gordon Hayward, he knows of what he speaks.
The message was vintage Kobe, all about the drive and steps to recovery. Focus on the next thing, don’t let any obstacles stop you.
Let’s just hope Hayward can take this to heart and make a full recovery.
The buzz of the NBA’s opening night was killed just a 5:15 into the first game when Gordon Hayward went down with what could be a season-ending ankle and leg injury.
What’s next for Boston now? Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports get into that with this latest PBT Podcast.
They also discuss the opening night game between the Celtics and Cavaliers and what we can take away from it, same with the Houston Rockets upset of the Golden State Warriors. The pair also gets into the Nikola Mirotic/Bobby Portis incident in Chicago (this was recorded just before the Portis suspension came down), the LaMarcus Aldridge extension with the Spurs, and if Joel Embiid should be ticked about being on a minutes limit to start the season.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.