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Redd, Phoenix Suns

Peaking For Playoff Run

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Michael Redd is a force once again. Image by Keith Allison and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
Former All-Star And Olympian Michael Redd Is Capturing His Former Magic As Suns Begin To Gel, But Can They Make The Big Dance?

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By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

April 10, 2012 — The Phoenix Suns didn’t just stumble into the strike-shortened 2012 season, they tripped like a hot chick being chased by a homicidal maniac in a horror movie.

After their first 20 games, they had a woeful 7-13 record. They had a hard time getting the ball in the basket — they scored more than 100 points only four times in their first 20 games.

Things didn’t get any better over their next 14 games. At the All-Star break, they sat at a dismal 14-20. Many fans and experts began to count this year as a lost season and talk began to drift toward this summer’s draft lottery.

But a strange thing happened on the way to the ping-pong ball machine — the Phoenix Suns found a little chemistry and some new additions began to meet expectations. Since Feb. 23, the Suns have gone 16-7 to find themselves in a battle for one of the last three playoff spots with Dallas, Denver, Houston and Utah. The five teams are separated by a mere three losses and each team will have a chance to knock the other off over the last nine or so games of the season.

The Suns will travel to Houston Friday, will host Denver April 21, and will visit Utah April 24 in the second to last game of the season. The good news is that the trip to Utah is the Suns’ only away game over their last six contests. The flip (bad) side of that coin is that the Suns still have to face San Antonio twice and Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant’s crew once in this final run.

The rest of the schedule looks like this: at Memphis, at Houston, at San Antonio, Portland, OKC, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, at Jazz, San Antonio. There's not an easy one in the bunch.

But if the team plays as well as they have over the past few weeks, wins over Houston, Denver and Utah might give them some margin for error.

But the Suns might just barrel into the playoffs thanks to the emergence of Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. Brown, who looked like a duck out of water early in the season after moving from the Los Angeles Lakers’ famous triangle offense to the Suns free flowing system, has averaged just under 16 points in about 32 minutes a game over the last five contests since Grant Hill had his knee scoped.

Sebastian Telfair has also come into his own over this period. Although he is only averaging 5.1 points for the season, over the last five games, he is averaging almost 9 points and more than 4 assists in approximately 17 minutes. He has established himself as a solid backup to Steve Nash — which is no simple feat.

But even more impressive has been the play of Michael Redd. The Suns have been missing another dominant player and Redd has seemingly recaptured the form that made him a 20-point a night machine earlier this decade. Over Redd's last five games, he is averaging nearly 17 points a game — in only about 20 minutes.

Even better, he is shooting 45 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from three-point range.

Redd gives them three legitimate “stars” that could do some serious damage — everybody knows how much stars matter in the playoffs. This year’s Suns team is not really much worse than last year’s Mavericks — the worst team to ever win a championship.

Anything is possible, but for this year’s Suns, the re-emergence of Michael Redd as one of the finest two-guards in the league — and a “piece” that is already in the fold — might mean that they might only have to attract one free agent in order to get back into the championship picture next season. Although, there are no “game changers” in this season’s free agent class where they need the help — power forward.

The Suns might have stumbled out of the gate, but they are sprinting to the finish line. While they have been able to pick themselves up and make a run, the homicidal maniac chasing them — expectations of a fanbase that is tired of waiting for a championship — is still on their heels.

But thanks to Michael Redd and the Suns' team mentality that has brought out the best in Brown, Sebastian Telfair and others, this season has gotten very interesting.

Bob Goodwood lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. Reach him directly at bob.goodwood@yahoo.com.
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