Hornacek: Furious Finish 'How It Should Be'

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Here’s how the final week of the regular season will have looked before the playoff dust settles:

April 10: San Antonio at Dallas

April 11: Phoenix at San Antonio

April 12: Phoenix at Dallas

April 14: Memphis at Phoenix

April 16: Dallas at Memphis

There’s no denying the round robin feel between three teams who are – as Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek put it – “scratching and clawing” for two playoff spots. Phoenix and Dallas are essentially tied. Memphis is just a game behind them.

It could not have been scripted better. Indeed, it feels scripted because of all the juicy playoff implications each game holds. More importantly, because tiebreakers and entire one-game swings in the standings are in play, the “what-if” scenarios form a migraine-inducing flow-chart of possibilities.

And that’s just how Hornacek likes it.

“That’s how it should be,” he said of the final stretch. “It’s a great tune-up if you make it in the playoffs ‘cause these games are played like that, that type of atmosphere. It’s a fun time to play.”

A big reason Hornacek prefers this type of finish: the focus is shifted to them. The complicated state of the standings prevent Phoenix from 1) mentally breaking down each and every scenario, 2) picking the one they like best and 3) simply waiting for it to happen.

Hornacek wants his team to focus on just one scenario: win. And, as Suns.com’s Greg Esposito pointed out, they control their own destiny.

If Phoenix wins three of their final four games, they’re in. They don’t have to worry about what the other teams do, because they’ll have already guaranteed their fate. Three more wins gives them 50 total. Whichever of the Dallas/Memphis duo they beat would be able to snag 49 at most.

Again, though, that’s looking ahead games at a time. The Suns are only willing to look as far as the next quarter, the next minute, the next possession.

“From the first minute of the game, try to be the team that is hungry for a playoff spot,” said Goran Dragic.

Phoenix needs to be hungry. The table they want has one fewer seat than customers. Rudeness - in the form of wins - will be needed to shoulder their way to a space.

It’s a far cry for a team that was once predicted to be kept waiting at the end of the line.

“I’m proud of these guys for how they’ve battled all year,” Hornacek said. “From having expectations of winning less than 20 games, they’ve been determined to prove that wrong all year. For us coaches, we’re just proud of the fact that they play hard every night.”

For five more days, it’s up to them to play harder than ever. Luckily for them, that’s all they need to worry about.