Phoenix Suns denied playoffs due to delay in first COVID-19 test

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

It is easy to look at Caris LeVert’s missed shot as to why the Phoenix Suns missed the play-in game, but blame could be targeted at Rudy Gobert.

10 seconds…7 seconds…4 seconds…(why isn’t Caris LeVert driving toward the rim!?) 2 seconds…LeVert elevates for a step-back jump shot over C.J. McCollum for the win and to save the Phoenix Suns season…clank off the back rim followed by the harsh sound of the buzzer ringing in every Suns fans ear and the bright red light around the backboard piercing every Suns fan’s eyes in sheer despair.

As we all now know (I woke up in a state of depression this morning), the Nets came one point and one shot away from gifting the Phoenix Suns an incredible gift, the chance to control their own playoff destiny and carry their magical run in the NBA bubble into the play-in game (or games) and potentially into the 2020 NBA Playoffs as the league’s hottest team.

The league’s premier team since the NBA restart on July 30 hung in purgatory as Caris LeVert’s shot spun through the air destined to crush the hearts of Suns’ (and general basketball fans who love a good story) hearts.

Caris LeVert will always be remembered in Suns lore as the guy who missed the last-second shot that ended their season (there will likely never be an NBA team in these same circumstances again winning their last 8 games only to miss the postseason).

What Suns fans won’t remember (unless they read this post) is the fact that there is one other guy who will inexplicably be linked to the Suns’ playoff heartbreak in 2020 and not for the reason you think: Rudy Gobert.

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The Phoenix Suns were hurt by a delay in the first NBA COVID-19 positive test.

On March 9, 2020, Rudy Gobert made press conference history (in a very bad way) after the Jazz’s 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Utah.

He made sure to touch every single microphone in the press room in jest to essentially make fun of the, at that time, still relatively novel (at least in the U.S.) coronavirus.

Gobert started feeling sick on Tuesday, March 10, but because the virus was so new to the States, he wasn’t tested for COVID-19 until Wednesday morning on March 11, merely as a precautionary measure.

We all know what happened from there, one of the most bizarre and notorious scenes in professional sports history as team doctors and personnel sprinted out to inform the referees of Gobert’s test results once they had received the positive results to stop the Jazz-Thunder game in Oklahoma City that night before the virus could spread any more.

What you may not remember, is that the night before all hell broke loose and the NBA season was postponed on March 11, 2020, a Phoenix Suns team without Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, and Kelly Oubre lost 121-105 in Portland to the Blazers (who in fairness didn’t have Jusuf Nurkic).

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If Gobert had been tested and received a positive test on March 10 instead of the 11th (which he absolutely would have in today’s COVID-19 climate), the Suns and Blazers game may have been canceled that night and the NBA would have postponed the season starting 24 hours earlier.

The Suns would have entered the bubble with a 26-38 record and the Blazers with a 28-37 record, which means with the way they finished in the bubble (the Suns at 8-0 and the Blazers at 6-2), the Suns’ final record would have been 34-38 and the Blazers would have finished 34-39.

That would have granted the Suns the No. 9 seed and a match-up in the play-in with the Grizzlies as the Grizzlies would have finished the season at 34-38 without their loss to the Orlando Magic on March 10.

The Spurs still would have been out of the picture as their win over the Mavericks on March 10 would never have happened and they would have finished 32-38 at best in the bubble with their two losses heading into their final game against Utah on Thursday.

To be fair, the Suns and Blazers would have likely played each other in the first game of the restart, and Caris LeVert would have never gotten a chance to beat Portland, but let’s brush by that for argument’s sake.

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The same scenario that would have played out had Caris LeVert hit that last shot would have occurred if Rudy Gobert had been tested a day earlier as he likely should have been.

Would a red-hot Suns team beat the Grizzlies twice to earn the No. 8 seed? My answer is a very strong yes.

Would they then have ridden the momentum of a 10-game winning streak into their 1st round series against the struggling top-seeded Lakers and shocked the world?

Unfortunately, we will never know, but considering their depth and how many defenders they would have been able to throw at LeBron (maybe even Kelly Oubre?) it is very feasible that they could have pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history and made the Western Conference semi-finals.

Like many what-if scenarios in the Suns’ tortured existence (What if Kareem was a Sun in 1969? What if Paxson missed that three-pointer in 1993? Or Mario Elie in 1995? If Amar’e doesn’t get hurt in 2006? If Nash doesn’t bust his nose open or get shoved into the scorers table in 2007? If World Peace doesn’t make that last-second tip-in in 2010? You get the point…) we will never know how far the “Bubble Suns” would have gone.

We were a mere 24 hours or one shot away from getting to find out.

Next. Suns fans should be proud of what this team has accomplished. dark