Suns’ best title shot in franchise history ends in unimaginable way
PHOENIX – Incomplete.
For everyone involved in the Phoenix Suns grind throughout the season, from management and staff to the players, they will have the inevitable feeling that something incomplete is hanging over them as competitors.
A franchise-record year of 64 wins followed an NBA Finals appearance that rightfully set the standard at championship or bust.
It was the franchise’s best opportunity at a championship. Not only was it the best regular season team in the organization’s history, but there were none of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs, Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers, of the Boston Celtics of Red Auerbach or any other dynasty of all time. force in its path.
And yet, the Suns will still chase that first championship after a shock second-round exit against the Dallas Mavericks was sealed in Sunday’s 123-90 Game 7 loss.
“I know they didn’t want to play that way,” head coach Monty Williams said. “We basically played the worst game of the season tonight.”
For veterans like Jae Crowder and Chris Paul, they’ve never seen a better opportunity for their own elusive ring pursuit. It’s very likely that they won’t get as good a crack at this one.
“Not at all,” Paul said of the idea that this could be his last chance at a championship. “They said that last year. I probably said that in 2008. You play long enough and you don’t win, every time you lose they’ll say that was your best chance, but I think for me (and) us is that we will be back next year.
Who knows what the careers of Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton have in store for us, if it was as close as they ever will be from the perspective of a championship-caliber team.
“Much of the same,” Booker said of how it felt compared to last year’s release. “Below our target. Even though last year we were a bit closer, it hurts. As a team, we just have to own it. You have to look at that and use that as motivation, just like we did with the finals last year.
And for it to happen like it did on Sunday at home is embarrassing. He will be near or at the top of every prominent person’s legacy in his positions on the team until he overcomes it. And they better hope they do.
There are roars coming from the fan base for accountability. They are guaranteed.
“I’ve talked to them all year, we’ve heard all the praise, won all the games and set records and stuff and we’ve taken it,” Williams said. “Well, tonight you have to take it. It’s part of manhood. There are days when it just doesn’t go your way and you have to stand there and show character and integrity and take it. That’s life.”
Everything that happened to this team in the playoffs is unacceptable. It was the culmination of a playoff run in which the Suns completely lost who they are and how they play basketball. The biggest problem would be that they are as ignorant as we are.
“Me. I’m the guy who’s responsible for getting us ready,” Williams said when asked about the Suns’ loss of form over the past two weeks. season. That’s it. We didn’t have the pace we had for some reason. I always have to look to him.
“I think that’s who Mont’ is at the end of the day,” Paul said of Williams taking ownership of that. “But he can’t shoot, he can’t play. They can come up with a game plan, but [Dallas] just executed better than us.
“I think we just came out and didn’t have enough,” Paul added. “I think Mont’ said it’s up to him but I think it’s up to me as the point guard, the leader of the team, to come out and make sure we get the right shots and everything. that. But that’s the way it is.”
Dallas’ huge defensive effort from Game 3 peaked on Sunday, completely stifling the Suns’ smooth, rhythmic offense. Phoenix’s clear nerves didn’t help.
Booker, a player who almost always scores in this offense, was pressing early in a game in a way he had never rushed for baskets in an important game before. Paul continued to look like a shell of himself for the fifth game in a row. Ayton’s issues with aggression and decision-making persisted.
Dallas, meanwhile, was fearless and relentless in the way we’ve come to expect from this Suns group. It was a tremendous effort overall for a deserving winner of the series.
Phoenix’s problems surfaced immediately minutes into the game. The Mavericks could only capitalize on a season-low 17-point first quarter for Phoenix with a 10-point lead. Ayton, Booker and Paul had no field goals.
There would be no sense of desperation or fighting despite 12 minutes that made it clear the Suns’ season would be over if they didn’t come back to reality.
Dallas’ advantage increased to 30 at halftime. Luka Doncic’s 27 of 35 points tied the Suns’ total as an entire team. Phoenix was booed to the ground.
No one was intervening and no one was playing ranged even close to a tolerable level.
No sign of life outside of halftime either. The deficit reached 46 and the Suns never even reduced it in the 20s or led in the game as a whole.
Booker was 3 of 14 for 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and four turnovers in 37 minutes. Nine of his points came in the third quarter when the game was already over. Dallas continued to trap him, and Paul’s issues kept the Mavericks off the hook, and Booker didn’t react well either way.
“They followed their game plan,” Booker said. “They did a good job of taking the ball out of my hands and trapping every action I was in. I’ve always said that I’m not the person who’s going to try to shoot more than eight people. I going to try to make the right game and it was not the right game every time.
Paul scored seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and added four assists. He didn’t watch the majority of the show well and ESPN’s Marc J. Spears reported post-game it’s a left quad injury that’s bothering Paul.
Ayton only played 17 minutes. Williams pulled him early in the third quarter after Ayton’s lack of energy continued and Ayton didn’t react well to his coming out.
When Williams was asked about Ayton reaching that number of minutes and not logging one in the fourth quarter, he replied “it’s internal.”
Cam Johnson’s 12 points made him Phoenix’s leading scorer. As I said, no one competed within the scope of what is expected of them.
Dallas’ Spencer Dinwiddie (30 points) and Jalen Brunson (24) were alongside Doncic to look as comfortable and paced as possible scoring the dribble.
The NBA has a fierce aspect where things change much faster than you might think. Discord windows will close unexpectedly.
Considering how exhausted Paul has been in this series at the age of 37, it’s hard to imagine him reaching Point God level again deep in the playoffs. His future with the team shouldn’t be up for debate, but his ability to play a part in bringing it about might.
The Suns also have contract extension questions to answer as a looming luxury tax bill looms over the entire process. Ayton is a restricted free agent. Johnson is eligible for an extension this summer like Bridges was the year before. A supermax contract extension for Booker could also be coming.
For a team that has made you feel certain of its abilities more than any other in franchise history, this Suns team is now littered with uncertainty going forward.