Phoenix Suns get second chance at playoffs during ‘Race for No. 8’ to restart NBA season

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Photo courtesy of Michael Tipton/Flickr

The Phoenix Suns return to the hardwood against Washington today

Ole Olafson, Reporter

The Phoenix Suns restart their season today with their backs against the wall but with a chance to get into the playoffs nonetheless.

Interestingly enough, the Suns, who were one of the last teams to be invited to the NBA bubble in Orlando, restart their season against the Washington Wizards, the other last team to be invited.

According to an Associated Press story from Wednesday, both the Suns and Wizards will start the second half of the 2019-2020 pandemic-interrupted season in what is being called the “Race for No. 8”.

The concept not only allows for a certain number of teams who could have perhaps made the playoff had the season not been interrupted by coronavirus on March 12 to actually make the playoffs, but also adds an element of uncertainty to the eight-game seeding tournament that will serve as a warmup to the playoffs.

In the Eastern Conference, only three teams, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington will battle for the final playoff spot.

The competition for last place should be twice as intense in the Western Conference where five other teams will scramble with the Suns to make the playoffs.  The Memphis Grizzlies are holding the eighth spot in the West as teams return to play.  They are followed by Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix, in lucky 13th place.

Phoenix will need to advance within four games of the Grizzlies to ensure themselves a chance at a play-in scenario for the final playoff spot.  They will have to do it against the fifth-hardest schedule in the conference and without playing any of the teams that they need to overtake.

The good news is that Deandre Ayton, one of the Suns’ best players, is reportedly healthy and familiar with the facility they will play at through his time in an Under Armour youth league.

After their matchup with Washington, Phoenix will play Dallas twice, L.A. Clippers, Indiana, Miami, Okla. City, and Philadelphia to decide their playoff fate.

Today’s first step towards the playoffs begins at 1:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Arizona.