Mar 22, 2023 - Sports

Struggling Suns only a few games out of playoff picture

A view from behind as a basketball player lays up the basketball while being guarded by two defenders.

Devin Booker shoots between Aaron Wiggins and Luguentz Dort of the Oklahoma City Thunder in a March 19 game. Photo: Ian Maule/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns play the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night, and with the team struggling since Kevin Durant went out with an ankle injury, there's a lot on the line as the season winds to a close.

State of play: With a 38-33 record, the Suns are in fourth place in the Western Conference.

  • The Suns have lost four of six games since Durant's March 8 injury.
  • Of the top 10 teams in the west, Phoenix has the toughest remaining schedule, The Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: Because only three games separate the fourth and 10th place teams in the west, the Suns are only 3.5 games from falling out of playoff contention.

  • The Lakers are currently in 11th place and fighting for their playoff lives.
  • Slipping out of the top four would leave the Suns without home court advantage in the first round.
  • If they fall to ninth or 10th, they'll be forced into a play-in game to make the playoffs, and would face either Denver or Memphis, who've been dominating the conference, in the first round.

The intrigue: When Durant hurt his ankle, the team said he would be out for three weeks and then reevaluated — a timeline that would have him out at least another five games, the Republic noted.

  • If our superstar acquisition only misses five more games, Durant's first game back will be March 31 against the West-leading Denver Nuggets.
  • Of note: Phoenix has 11 games left in the regular season.

What we're watching: The struggling Lakers are one of the weaker teams left on the Suns' schedule, which still includes matchups against top squads like Denver, Sacramento and Philadelphia.

  • The Lakers, who are missing star LeBron James, need some wins to keep themselves in the playoff race.

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