Pressure is on Phoenix Suns to make up for last year, deliver this postseason

Apr 11, 2023, 5:30 PM

Chris Paul #3 talks with Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns during the first half agains...

Chris Paul #3 talks with Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Footprint Center on April 06, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Pressure kills in the NBA playoffs.

Teams with foundational cracks will suffer. Those hiding weaknesses will be exposed. Teams with poor leadership will quickly yield to their superiors.

The Western Conference is wide open. The best teams have gaudy winning percentages. The underdogs have pedigree and star power. It feels like a referendum on the credibility of the NBA’s regular season, a bloated exercise fast becoming one of the biggest farces in professional sports.

But the NBA playoffs are hardcore. There is extreme pressure on the top-seeded Denver Nuggets, where Nikola Jokic must validate his MVP trophies. There is significant stress on Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics, runners-up from a year ago. There will be a hotter spotlight on the Philadelphia 76ers’ star Joel Embiid, likely the incoming MVP. And all eyes are on Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, who can erase most of the recent weirdness with a spectacular playoff run.

There is also a great deal of pressure in Phoenix, where Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Monty Williams all carry playoff albatrosses of varying weight.

Paul has never won a championship in his Hall of Fame career, and his postseason legacy is beset by injuries, misfortune and Scott Foster. Booker must atone for his shoddy performances in Games 6 and 7 against the Mavericks, where he was anything but legendary. And Williams has largely skated for his disastrous performance in last year’s playoffs, where he was badly outcoached by a former assistant (Willie Green); where he was cornered into unseemly checkmate from former Suns star Jason Kidd, who winked at me on his way out of Footprint Center, keenly aware of the wreckage he left behind.

Williams couldn’t rein in a 64-win team gone astray; repair bridges; match wits; settle on a rotation; or save a celebrated culture gone wrong. He will surely be under the new owner’s microscope in the coming weeks.

The NBA playoffs are an extreme test of mental fortitude. The pressure mounts, the game slows down and the physicality increases. Simple possessions are intensified, complicated by heightened defensive tenacity. Tempers flare and pressure mounts. Lesser players crack. Aging players snap. It’s not for martyrs or the faint of heart.

This is not the time to be playing to the referees, hunting for fouls, looking for excuses.

This time, the Suns must be ready for pressure. Built for pressure. Aligned and allied with pressure.

This is the time to act and play like champions. This team has had enough practice, even without Kevin Durant. This team has had enough heartbreak.

And we have waited long enough.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Dan Bickley

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Why do Josh Dobbs, Kyler Murray look so different under the same Cardinals offense?

Josh Dobbs had two weeks to learn Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator’s system while Kyler Murray had 11 months which leads Dan Bickley to wonder why the two quarterbacks look so different on the field? Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports Photos: Adam Bettcher, Isaiah Vazquez, Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images Presented By

2 days ago

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray evaluation gets murkier after Rams loss

The old Kyler Murray won’t be good enough for the new Cardinals. And the new Murray is clearly a work in progress, with a long way to go.

3 days ago

Devin Booker, Kevin Durant attend a Diamondbacks games...

Dan Bickley

From D-backs to D-Book, there’s a lot to be thankful for

Dan Bickley is thankful for the Diamondbacks' World Series run, Devin Booker's imprint on Arizona and more this Thanksgiving.

7 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Will fans see the Deandre Ayton of old or new when Phoenix Suns face Trail Blazers?

Deandre Ayton returns to Footprint Center as the Trail Blazers take on Phoenix. After promising to regain fans after being traded to Portland, Dan Bickley considers if the former Suns center is living up to his promise. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports Photos: Alika Jenner, Tim Weachukwu, Amanda Loman, Steph Chambers, Tim Warner, […]

9 days ago

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: The tune changes (again) as Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals fall flat vs. Texans

Kyler Murray’s encore performance back under center for the Arizona fell flat and Dan Bickley addresses fans calling him out for changing his tune regarding the Cardinals QB1. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports Subscribe to the Arizona Sports daily newsletter: https://bit.ly/3QWcj1x Read articles from Arizona Sports: https://arizonasports.com/ Download the Arizona Sports app: https://arizonasports.com/the-arizona-sports-98-7-fm-app/ […]

10 days ago

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball during the first half of a game against...

Dan Bickley

Kyler Murray’s latest audition as Cardinals’ long-term QB a letdown

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray wasn't nearly as impressive on Sunday as he was in his return, struggling in a loss to Houston.

11 days ago

Pressure is on Phoenix Suns to make up for last year, deliver this postseason