Suns still shining bright in NBA

Jan 11, 2005 6:59 AM

More than two months into the season the Phoenix Suns remain by far the biggest story in the NBA.

With their weekend sweep of a pair of games the Suns retain the league’s best record at 30-4, already exceeding their total of 29 wins from last season. They are on a pace to threaten the all time record of 72 regular season wins set by Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

While it’s a stretch to suggest that such a record is in jeopardy, it seems certain that barring key injuries the Suns will win close to 65 games and likely be the top seed in the competitive Western Conference.

San Antonio had the NBA’s second best record (28-7) and handled Phoenix easily in the first meeting just a few weeks ago. Seattle is the West’s other Division leader, seven ahead of Minnesota in the Northwest. And Phoenix is eight clear of Sacramento in the Pacific.

In the East, only Miami and Detroit have won more road games than they have lost, making the home court advantage even more valuable than in the West. Division leaders Miami, Cleveland and New York have the top three seeds with Washington currently seeded fourth.

With still more than half the regular season remaining, Miami appears to be the only Eastern team capable of challenging the powers in the West for the NBA title. Of course, the East was given little chance last season of winning the title. Of course, Detroit represented the East better than expected by many in the NBA finals, dispatching the Los Angeles Lakers in just five games. You still have to play the games on the court.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Mavs at Spurs (Fri): These teams met twice late in the season’s opening month and San Antonio won by 14 at home and 18 in Dallas. San Antonio is the better team and the favorite to win the NBA title. Dallas is a playoff team and might wind up as the fourth seed in the West, conceding the Spurs the division. San Antonio (17-1) has been the league’s best team at home. Only Phoenix has a better road record than Dallas’ 10-4.

The Mavericks did win three of four meetings last season against the Spurs and should be getting at least a half dozen points. In their first meeting on this court the Spurs were favored by nine. Dallas is playing much better now than in November and more than capable of winning this game straight up with the talents of Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. DALLAS .

Suns at Wizards (Sat): The Phoenix fast start to the season has deservedly received much attention. The addition of Steve Nash and continued maturity of Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson make the Suns a team likely to contend for several seasons. But a similar situation is occurring in the nation’s capital, albeit on a far lesser scale.

Washington has quietly fashioned the fourth best record in the East, winning nearly 60 percent of its games. The trio of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Larry Hughes gives the Wizards a potent offense and this game should be played at an up tempo pace. Phoenix won the earlier meeting a month ago 110-96 in a game that stayed under the total of 217. We might see a similar total posted here but the schedule favors the host. Phoenix is in the middle of a five game road trip and are playing their sixth game in eight days. WASHINGTON.

Cavs at Sonics (Sun): Two of the NBA’s best players square off with the Sonics’ Ray Allen enjoying a fine season but not receiving nearly the attention of Cleveland’s sensational sophomore LeBron James. Allen is as valuable as James, but has the edge with All-Star Rashard Lewis to work with in Seattle.

Seattle has been dominant at home (12-3), while also showing an ability to win on the road (12-5). Cleveland is still learning how to win away from home with a 7-9 road mark. Seattle is the more rested team. Cleveland played in Utah on Saturday night. SEATTLE.

Last week: 2-1

Season: 17-12