All it takes is four losses in the month of May to make 64 of them look like nothing. The Phoenix Suns learned that tonight, dropping Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in a stunner that still feels difficult to digest.
Laboring through easily their worst shooting night of the season, Phoenix fell to Luka Doncic and company by a 123-90 score. The Suns shot 37.9 percent from the field, just a few ticks under what would be their season low for a game.
The team’s “big three” all played a significant part in keeping Phoenix’s shooting numbers in the basement as well. Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul, and Devin Booker all shot a combined 9-27 from the field. Swingman Mikal Bridges shot just 3-11.
While Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, and everyone else on the Mavericks were cooking with gas all night long, the Suns couldn’t even get the oven started. Now, they find themselves heading into the offseason several weeks earlier than they expected after enjoying a record-breaking regular season.
Following their downfall on the court, the players reacted up at the podium in a variety of ways.
After carrying the Suns through the first quarter with five points off the bench, Cameron Johnson’s play stalled out in the second half. Following the game, he seemed as shocked as anyone about his team’s early exit from the playoffs, looking back on the game’s before tonight in accordance with Game 7.
Often referred to as Johnson’s twin, Bridges showed some love for Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson after the game. With both players being Villanova products, Bridges declared that he would be rooting for Brunson going forward even after suffering this crushing loss at his hands.
As expected with his competitiveness, Booker seemed to take the loss hard. Following the bout, he dwelled not only on Phoenix losing Game 7, but the manner in which they did.
Being one of the game’s most clutch players this season, Booker often stole games right out from under other teams’ noses this year. Tonight though, he did not even get the chance, as the Suns fell too far behind too early.
Deandre Ayton did not speak with the media following Game 7. However, Booker stepped up for him and offered his support, mentioning his relationship with Ayton as a “brother” to be his primary concern right now and leaving Ayton’s contract situation as something to deal with later.
Having accomplished so much during his career but with an NBA championship still notoriously eluding him, CP3 perhaps represents tonight’s biggest loser. However, he showed some vigor after the contest, already looking to next year and silencing any whispers about a potential retirement.
Although it might feel difficult to fathom right now, Paul’s words remain true. The Suns will certainly be back next year. With exception to Ayton, almost the entire team as constructed remains under contract for next season.
The Suns additionally once were seen as a team loaded with talent, but one that lacked playoff experience. But having now completed two playoff runs that turned south fast, Phoenix can confidently say they’ve “seen it all” when it comes to the postseason.
It’s far too early to begin looking for silver linings in Phoenix’s loss tonight. They dropped the ball tonight on the biggest stage, throwing their best season in team history out the window. Make no mistake about that.
But not all is lost. While they might not hoist the Larry O’Brien this year, the Suns should enter the 2022-23 season as contenders, just like Paul explained.