Suns fans are accustomed to sickening ends to their team’s season.
We’ve seen Duncan banking threes, questionable Amare and Diaw suspensions and crushing injury after crushing injury.
But never in the past five years have we been able to officially lie the season to rest so early as the tender date of April 5, the day the Suns were demolished 140-116 in Dallas to lose what essentially amounted to a Game 7 in blowout fashion.
“Not in a million years would I have thought we’d come out and play that way in a game of that significance,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “I’d like to have some big explanation for you. … I never would have thought we would have performed that way in a game of this magnitude.”
Grant Hill hyped this one up by comparing it to the World Cup and Match Play in importance, and at least he showed up with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
Aside from Leandro Barbosa’s 24 points off the bench, that’s more than you can say about the rest of the team.
Going into this one, the one thing I would have guaranteed would be that the Suns would give a great effort and make this if nothing else another close road loss.
Despite an early barrage of Dallas threes, that’s how things looked to be going four minutes into the second quarter when Phoenix trailed by just one.
It took less than six minutes from there for the Mavs to send the Suns home for the season by reeling off one of those patented tears Phoenix has become so accustomed to giving up. Dallas outscored Phoenix 24-3 during that stretch, putting the Suns in a 70-48 hole that they would never come close to climbing out of.
“If they make a 24-3 run it’s probably defense,” Gentry said of his team’s problem in this one, not to mention the rest of the season, after Dallas enjoyed its best regulation offensive game in 17 years. “We didn’t do a very good job. They scored any time they wanted to. They scored against our zone. We played man and figured we could go into a zone. They scored against our zone, (and) there’s nothing else we can play.
“I thought we came out with good energy and we did a good job, but we hit that one streak right there and they got separation and we never got back in it.”
The Mavs shot 60 percent both from the field and from three for the game and racked up 81 points in the first half.
Things got so ridiculous that Josh Howard even drained a three-quarters court heave to end a first half that saw four Mavs on pace for 30 and Jason Kidd putting up 16 points and 16 assists.
The Suns showed none of the sense of urgency you would expect out of a team in a game they 100 percent, absolutely had to win to make this race interesting.
You can’t even blame this one on an inability to guard Dirk Nowitzki, who scored an efficient 28 points on 10-for-12 shooting but didn’t take this one over like he did the last one.
He didn’t have to after Howard got off to a great start, Jason Terry came in and drilled all four of his first-half triples and Kidd got everybody involved by backing down Nash or LB and then either scoring or finding teammates time and time again.
The Suns can’t guard Dirk with anybody, they can’t guard J Kidd in the post with Nash or LB, and when they go to a zone like they did at times then Dallas’ shooters like Terry go off.
Remind me again how the Suns beat this team by 28 in January?
The Mavs came out focused and hot and acted like this was the most important game of their season, although they had enough slack that they could have dropped this one and still reached the playoffs.
The Suns, meanwhile, yielded open shot after open shot, showing none of the commitment it takes to be a good defensive team. They looked like anything but a desperate basketball team fighting for its playoff life, trailing by as many as 35 at one point.
Jason Richardson took a knee to his left thigh in the first quarter and wasn’t himself in a two-point, 0-for-4 performance and Matt Barnes, suffering from a sore right big toe, didn’t even score in his 20 minutes.
So much for the spirit of the 2007 “We Believe” Warriors.
Gentry is a terribly optimistic individual, and he’s been more optimistic than what has even maybe been warranted after the Suns dropped six in a row to fall six back last month and then lost another three in a row on the road last weekend to short circuit their playoff hopes.
He first talked about wanting to make sure this game mattered and then proclaimed the final eight games to be “a new season,” a season in which Phoenix must go 8-0 to even have a chance at the playoffs.
But with the Mavericks either needing one victory or a Suns loss to clinch a playoff spot with five games remaining for both teams, even Gentry acknowledged that the Suns are now done.
“Realistically we don’t (have a chance at the playoffs), guys,” Gentry said. “I mean let’s be honest, it would have to be a total collapse by them. They would have to lose every game, and they’re not going to do that.
“We’re probably not going to make it quite honestly, that’s pretty obvious. But what we can do is we can show the professionalism that we have by now going and playing in the last four or five games that we have. That’s what we have to do.”
I could see the Suns completely collapsing after the Mavericks mathematically eliminate them in the next couple days, but Gentry’s idea is at least a noble thought.
What really matters is the Suns didn’t bring their A-game – or their B-game, C-game or D-game – when they needed a victory most.
It was probably ridiculous for Phoenix fans to hold out any hope of a miracle comeback in the playoff race considering how bad the Suns have been on the road. Phoenix today dropped to 2-17 away from Arizona against winning teams, taking just one road contest against a good team since the season opener in San Antonio, and it’s been 10 losses since that Jan. 25 victory in Atlanta.
The Suns have won just one of 10 games on the road without Amare – and they needed 154 points just to do that – whereas they have lost to only the Cavs, Celtics and these Mavericks at home under Gentry and without Amare.
Thus Sunday’s result made for a fitting end to an underwhelming season, a season in which the Suns rarely came through with a big win when they needed it most and almost never on the road.
“We just weren’t ourselves today,” Nash told Suns.com. “Disappointing season, but obviously a very embarrassing and disappointing loss today.”
Tags: Leandro Barbosa