The playoff run this season for the Phoenix Suns was supposed to be different after the arrival of Kevin Durantmidway through the season, and despite having a sure Hall of Famer in the lineup every game in the playoffs, the season ended the same as last year, in a humiliating blowout loss in the playoffs.
The Nuggets crushed the Suns on Thursday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals by a score of 125-100. Last season, the Dallas Mavericks disposed of the Suns in Game 7 in the second round in the same fashion.
The Suns were never in the game, trailing by 30 points at the half. The fans voiced their displeasure with boos as the team headed to the locker room at the half. It was so bad that a large number of fans left with significant time remaining in the game.
Durant noted that it “was a bad feeling. Embarrassing.” Devin Booker, who usually is very cordial with the media, left the arena without saying a word. Booker, who dominated this postseason averaging nearly 34 points per game, was held to 12 points on 4-of-13 from the floor. That was eerily similar to his poor 3-of-14 shooting in last year’s elimination game.
The Suns were without Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, but Booker and Durant (8-of-19 from the floor, four turnovers) came up small in the season’s biggest game. Cameron Payne led the Suns with 31 points on a robust 12-for-16 from the floor, including 7-of-9 from three-point range.
With the loss, the Suns became only the third team in NBA history to be eliminated from the postseason in back-to-back seasons with losses of 25 points or more. Suns coach Monty Williams didn’t make too much of that statistic, noting that last year’s team makeup was totally different from this year’s, not only in terms of personnel but the style of play.
Although Durant averaged nearly 30 points per game in the series, he needed to work hard from each point. He shot only 45 percent from the floor and a dismal 22 percent from beyond the arc. Durant played only eight games in the regular season with the Suns due to injury. He clearly indicated that the team needs to be better next year, noting that it’s difficult to know what the future holds regarding personnel, draft picks, and coaching staff.
In fairness to the Suns, they were riddled with injuries this season. In addition to Durant’s injury, Booker played in only 56 games, Ayton was limited to 67, and Paul to 59. Phoenix finished second in the Pacific Division with a regular season record of 45-37.
After losing in the 2020-21 NBA Finals, the Suns vaulted to the top record last season with 64 wins. The Suns are still a team to watch and have come a long way from the days of losing 60 games per season from 2015-16 through 2018-19. It will be an interesting offseason in Phoenix to see what needs to be done to get them over the hump for a chance at an elusive NBA title.
While the Suns deal with their elimination from the NBA playoffs, other players are facing uncertainty, like LeBron James, who is uncertain about his future after a playoff exit.