Time To Nail The Coffin On Suns Season


Phoenix- The coffin started being built on December 15th when Khris Middleton hit a buzzer beating three that dropped the Suns record at the time to 12-14.

It was put aside for awhile when the team won six straight games after that moment, and then 14 out of 18 to put themselves in the driver seat for the 8th spot in the playoffs.

After Goran Dragic’s outburst set off the craziest trade deadline day in NBA history, workers were ordered to begin working on the coffin once again. If anything, they had time to make it nice and pretty should the Suns probable fate of missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season come true.

Brandon Knight, the guard who came in to replace both Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, sprained his ankle the first week of March and that ramped up efforts in the coffin building process. The Phoenix Suns (38-36) were able to tread water without Knight, and put themselves in a position to possibly tie the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-32) by the end of Sunday night’s game at the beginning of this week.

Three home losses later including a 109-97 defeat to the Thunder on Sunday night essentially ended any playoff hope the team was holding onto.

The time has come to hammer in those nails to that coffin.

“We’ll find out what kind of character they have,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said on playing out the stretch. “If they come out and we got to play these games, and they’re all against good teams, so have pride to go out there and try to win that game.

“You worry about what the record is at the end. We got ourselves back into position, but couldn’t win any of these last three games.”

While mathematically the Suns are not eliminated from playoff contention, the team sits four games back with eight games to play, and do not have the tiebreaker against the Thunder after losing three of four to them this season.

The start of Sunday’s night game provided hope that this season could remain relevant for a few more games at least.

Markieff Morris scored 11 straight points on 5-of-5 shooting out of the gates that ignited the offense to 62 first half points. The Suns led by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, and shot 57.1% from the field.

Phoenix was able to jump Oklahoma City early perhaps due to the fact the Thunder were coming off a late Saturday road game in Utah to the Jazz, but they were able to hang around thanks to 23 points in the first half from Russell Westbrook. The MVP candidate scored the last 16 points of the half for the Thunder, and had the Suns lead cut down to eight heading into the second half.

Yet, the Suns were in total control going into the second half, but the wheels came off the wagon in a hurry.

“A tough third quarter,” P.J. Tucker said. “Our defense went down and crumbled in the third quarter.

“Once we got down, we just folded. So, kind of the story of our season, you know, giving it up it up in the second half. It was a tough one for us.”

Folded up like a lawn chair.

The Suns only had 25 points offensively in the second half through the first 18 minutes, allowing the Thunder to hang around until they made their big push to begin the fourth quarter.

The Thunder went on a 19-4 run through the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, highlighted by three straight Thunder 3-pointers. More impressively, the run came with Westbrook on the bench.

“It was crazy because they went with a small lineup with Westbrook out, and like I said, they were attacking, getting in the paint and kicking it out on those guys,” Tucker explained. “They were moving the ball, getting open shots and they were knocking them down. That was the difference.”

While the Suns got good offensive performances from Mark. Morris, who finished with 24 points, and T.J. Warren who scored 18 on 8-of-10 shooting off the bench, they did not get enough help to keep up with the Thunder’s hot second half shooting.

“It looked like we ran out of gas,” Hornacek said on the Suns poor second half. “We weren’t getting up and down the court. We had turnovers and they were getting easy baskets. I don’t know if the guys felt demoralized when that happened, but you‘ve got to keep playing, and they made some threes.”

Inconsistency is the perfect word to define this season, and that probably comes with the high amount of roster shuffling from the last season.

Respected veterans such as Channing Frye, Ish Smith, Goran Dragic and even Isaiah Thomas all walked out the door, leaving the locker room to young guys who are still figuring out their way in this league.

After the game, the mood in the locker room was as if the Suns had won the game. There were players laughing and joking with only a few seeming to take the loss hard. In the past, after any loss whether it be in November or a season defining game in March, it would be dead silence in that room.

Things have certainly changed and with the playoffs out of the question, it is time to start looking ahead to next season. There is no doubt this team has taken a step back from their near fairy-tale run last season, and the final eight games will be about playing for pride and possibly a job next season.

“Being professional and just doing your job. Finishing something you started…Anything is possible. Just got to keep fighting,” Markieff Morris said.