Phoenix Suns: 10 Takeaways From The 2014-15 Season (Part 1)

Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) reacts against the Boston Celtics at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) reacts against the Boston Celtics at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phoenix Suns
Jan 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots the game winning shot at the buzzer against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Rockets defeated the Suns 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

6. Suns Could’t Close Out Games

One of the first things McDonough acknowledged about the season was the Suns didn’t take advantage of their schedule early in the season, losing games at home to teams under .500 that just never should have happened. Once the schedule heated up in the home stretch, the roster drastically changed and the injury plague rained down from above. It’s no wonder the final weeks were so brutal.

In games decided by three points or fewer, the Suns tied the Indiana Pacers with the most losses in the NBA (12). Both teams were 4-12 in such contests, but the Suns also recorded four losses in overtime. Every night, it seemed like this team found new ways to blow close games, but every time it was just as painful to watch.

If you’re looking for the real playoff killers, you can point to all the heartbreaking buzzer-beaters as well. It started with a Blake Griffin step-back three in overtime. The Suns had hung tough and needed one stop to close the game. Despite P.J. Tucker’s best efforts, the Flyin’ Lion made the ugliest buzzer-beater you’ll ever see:

I mean, come on. That ball was on a straight line to the rim, hit it head on, bounced straight up, grazed the backboard and somehow fell in. That thing was ugly up until the moment it wasn’t. But only a week later, the Suns were burned by yet another buzzer-beater that left everyone shaking their heads:

Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks went on to have quite a nice season, but really? A leaning three-pointer out of a spin move? Off the backboard and rolling around the rim before dropping in?

The defense on that possession wasn’t great, and Middleton hit another game-winner from that very position against Dragic and the Miami Heat later in the season, but at least that one was pure. This one was just plain unlucky.

Luck had nothing to do with the third buzzer-beater drained in Phoenix’s mug, though. We’ll get to this team’s areas of need in Part 2, but it’s no secret the Suns don’t have a superstar who can carry the load when his team needs it. The Houston Rockets do, and the Suns got a good look at what one looks like when James Harden broke Tucker’s ankles and calmly drilled a step-back jumper over Isaiah Thomas:

That’s three winnable games the Suns dropped because they couldn’t close out the game with a stop, but there’s still more! And unfortunately, this one might have been the most brutal, one of the final nails in Phoenix’s playoff coffin.

For whatever reason, DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings have been crap-team kryptonite to the Suns over the last few years, and this season was no different. Needing a road win to keep their postseason hopes afloat, the Suns went home empty-handed and broken-hearted after Boogie got a lucky bounce to sink them at the horn:

To be fair, that was a brilliant shot fake to get Markieff Morris up into the air and clear enough separation for the game-winner, but…wow. That ball hit the back of the iron, bounced up, hit the front of the rim, bounced backwards on the iron and somehow found the net. Unreal. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

At this point in the season, the Suns were only playing for pride. They fought hard against the Golden State Warriors — the league’s best team — in a building where only two visiting teams won in 41 tries this year. In a back-and-forth final minute, Bledsoe’s reverse layup out of an inbounds play gave Phoenix the lead with 4.5 seconds to go.

That’s when Harrison Barnes put the icing on the cake for this depressing Suns season, as yet another bounce failed to go the Suns’ way.

But hey, since he made that shot with 0.4 seconds left on the clock, at least this one wasn’t a buzzer-beater, right?

Buzzer-beaters and game-winners are a part of what makes the game of basketball so wonderful and exciting. But nobody had five losses on go-ahead shots in the final five seconds of regulation or overtime like the Suns did (the next closest was three).

You can only complain so much. The Suns need to be mentally tougher and make plays happen on the defensive end to close out games. You can also argue that those games never should have come down to one possession. But close games are inevitable, and Phoenix usually failed to finish them on an encouraging note.

For such a young team, that’s to be expected. But to this degree, it was just plain demoralizing, and with all those unlucky bounces, you’ve got to cut this team a little bit of slack. Not many teams can say five game-winners kept them out of the playoffs, after all.

Look for Part 2 tomorrow. Until then, try to avoid slipping back into depression by watching those buzzer-beaters too many times.

Next: Phoenix Suns: 10 Takeaways From The 2014-15 Season (Part 2)

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