DAN BICKLEY

Suns’ humiliating Game 7 loss is 1 of the greatest collapses in NBA history

May 15, 2022, 8:50 PM | Updated: May 16, 2022, 11:57 am

PHOENIX — Some dreams die hard. And some dreams were mirages all along.

A 33-point loss in Game 7?

The Valley is not devastated. We are disgusted. We are humiliated. We just witnessed one of the greatest collapses in the history of the NBA.

Gifted with the greatest stage in basketball, the Suns trailed by 30 points at halftime. That is a record for any Game 7 in basketball history. And then it got worse.

The Suns had as many points at halftime as Luka Doncic (27). They were booed as they left the floor. They were booed again at the end of three quarters. They nearly incited a mutiny among their fan base, most of whom began streaming for the exits after three quarters.

This is more deflating than the Cardinals getting laughed off the field in Los Angeles. This is worse than the blowout loss in the NFC Championship Game. This is worse than anything Steve Nash’s Suns did to our achy breaky hearts.

This is worse because these Suns set a franchise record for most regular season wins in history. They were the best team in the NBA by a country mile. They were our first major professional sports team to enter a postseason tournament as clear-cut favorites.

And they choked.

To say they are heartbroken would imply they actually possessed a heart when it mattered most. Which they most assuredly didn’t.

“I just told them how bad I hurt for them,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “They didn’t want to play that way. We basically played the worst game of the season tonight.”

Williams took all the blame for the Suns’ nosedive to extinction, attempting to cover for the underwhelming performances from Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. In an astonishing admission, Williams said he might’ve ridden the team too hard in the regular season. He attempted to minimize their failure, lamenting how the Suns just ran into a bad night at the worst possible time.

“From my standpoint, I did not have us ready to play in a Game 7,” Williams said. “(Dallas) played their tail off, and that part for me is tough because I know how bad our guys wanted it. We just had a bad night.”

Sorry. That’s no excuse. This pathetic display happened in Game 7, when great players are supposed to be legendary and great teams always rise to the moment. Instead, the Suns came out rattled and jittery. They were inexplicably foul hunting from the very beginning of the game, falling down after shots and looking for whistles. It was further proof of their desperation, their underlying doubt and their diminishing focus.

They trailed by as many as 46 points, stunning and silencing the sellout crowd.

“We just came out and didn’t have enough,” Paul said. “Mont said that’s on him. But I think that’s on me, as the point guard, the leader of the team, to come out and make sure we get the right shots and all that.”

Paul’s legacy will take a beating. So will Booker’s reputation as a big-game hunter. So will that Coach of the Year award that Williams earned in the midst of this postseason.

The Suns led 2-0 in this Western Conference semifinal. With two chances to advance, they were blown off the court in successive losses. They will wear the stains of this ugly elimination moving forward. Their pedigree and their ability in the clutch is up for debate. Some will claim their window has closed. It will be hard to prove them wrong.

“It was a good old-fashioned ass whipping from beginning to end,” Booker said.

There are heavy questions moving forward. Paul was asked four times about his health and never responded directly. You hope something is wrong with him physically because the alternative is that age has caught up with a 37-year-old point guard, and that’s much worse.

After the game, he seemed strangely detached from everything, as he has been since Game 3.

This team has earned the right to run it back again in 2022-23. But it’s hard to believe the Suns will give Ayton a max contract after this series. And the way the Pelicans and Mavericks deconstructed and derailed the Suns with adjustments and physicality, it’s hard to find faith in the future.

“We have something to build on,” Booker said. “We have more fuel added to the fire. And this is all the stuff that you just have to stand up and be a man about. Say we lose and move forward with it.”

To a man, the Suns tried to paint the season as a success. They pointed to records broken and standards set. With all due respect, nobody wants to hear about that.

These Suns will go down as a major disappointment, a team that buckled under pressure and expectations, a team that lost its swagger and its soul.

In the end, all they could do was talk a good game.

“It just sucks,” Mikal Bridges said.

Indeed.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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