Phoenix Suns' loss with Big 3 shows how hard this will still be

The Phoenix Suns lost the first official game of the Big 3 era in The Valley, which just showed how hard getting to the top of the mountain is going to be.
Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns
Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

In a sight that took months too long for Phoenix Suns fans to see out on the court, the "Big 3" of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal finally played a regular season game together on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for the team, it ended in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, 116-112.

A full-circle moment, as it was the Nets who the Suns acquired Durant from, and who they sent Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson to in order to make it happen. Nice as it was to see those two former players come back and be shown love with a tribute video, it also highlighted the worrying other side of going all-in for a superstar like Durant.

Bridges and Johnson aren't nearly as good as Durant, Booker or even Beal, but they're younger, healthier - and in the case of Bridges - are among the best defenders in the league today. Suns' owner Mat Ishbia has been aggressive in trying to build a winner from day one, but losing to the Nets of all teams with their three best players now healthy was not an ideal start.

If anything, the 13-11 record the Suns now have - good for the lowly 10th spot in the Western Conference - serve only to remind fans how far this group still has left to go.

It is not that any one of their "Big 3" didn't play well, because that is not the case. They combined for 75 of the team's 112 points, with the 34 minutes Beal played a great indicator that he is no longer being hampered by the back issue which has disrupted his season up to this point.

The Suns were also never going to automatically steamroll opponents who are not as good as them, which is a category the Nets still very much fall into. At 13-10 themselves, they're not even in the same class as young, up-and-coming teams like the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic or Oklahoma City Thunder right now.

But that's the problem for the Suns, and it is one that is going to continue to happen throughout the regular season. The team was outworked for periods of the game, and struggled to contain a team without one, clear superstar player. At least on the offensive end. Cam Thomas had 24 points and is known for being able to go off on some nights, but the Suns have to be better at shutting him down.

Missing Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon - a late scratch for the matchup - didn't help matters, but this roster was constructed under the assumption that their star players could dig them out of most holes. A shallow one presented itself at home in November, against a couple of familiar faces no doubt, and the Suns couldn't get it done.

Allen and Gordon will be back before long, and their importance to this roster cannot be overstated, but the sad reality right now is that there are too few players behind those guys who are ready to step up. Center Jusuf Nurkic does what he can, but really he's viewed as the unofficial fourth member of a "Big 3" because of how often he will share the court with those guys.

Players such as Nassir Little and Chimezie Metu - starter of the last two games - are fine, but the likes of Bol Bol and Yuta Watanabe are still not getting it done. Most worryingly of all, the hope was that the Suns could use the first 20 or so games in order to figure out the best way to use these three superb talents moving forward.

Instead Beal has played only five games, while Booker has been limited to 15. Why this is a problem is because contenders such as the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics are already largely familiar with one another from years of playing together.

3 lineups for the Suns which include their Big 3. 3 lineups for the Suns which include their Big 3. dark. Next

Then there are the upstart Minnesota Timberwolves, who may not be for real but are definitely a much scarier version of the Nets. Young, hungry and difficult to out in a seven-game series. Which is why the loss to the Nets gave fans an idea of how much of the mountain there is still left to scale.

Their stars might be back, but they're currently not scoring enough, not getting much help from elsewhere on the roster and can't defend at a high enough level to negate the first two facts. There's time, but they have to start moving in the right direction, and soon.