PHOENIX – For the second time in a row, the Phoenix Suns were eliminated at home in a humiliating manner.
Phoenix’s 125-100 loss for the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the Western Conference on Thursday night was eerily similar to the Dallas Mavericks’ dominance in Game 7 at the Footprint Center in the same round.
The half-time deficit was even identical at 30 points. Ditto was the reaction of the Suns fans, many of whom booed loudly at half-time and made their way to the exit despite plenty of time remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It sucked,” he said Kevin Durant, whose arrival in a midseason trade made the Suns the betting favorite to win the West. “It was a bad feeling. Awkward.”
Devin Booker left the arena without speaking to the media, a highly uncharacteristic move for the face of the Suns franchise.
Booker averaged 33.7 points per game this postseason but underperformed when the Suns were eliminated. He scored 12 points on 4 of 13 shots, an accurate reflection of his bad night in the eliminator loss to the Mavs last year (11 points, 3 of 14 shots).
The Suns, who were missing starters ChrisPaul (bar) and Deandre Ayton (ribs) became the third team in NBA history to be eliminated from the playoffs by more than 25-point losses in consecutive seasons, according to a study by ESPN Stats & Information.
Suns coach Monty Williams admitted being eliminated by losses in consecutive years was a “bad feeling” but downplayed the connection between the lopsided losses.
“I mean, it’s two different groups,” Williams said. “Last year’s team was completely different from this year’s team. Last year’s team was more of a ball and body movement team. This year we’re more pick and roll oriented and iso oriented so it’s two different situations altogether.” . This is something we need to look at to see what player combinations we need to have to fit the playstyle. But it’s difficult to judge things like that 20 minutes after a loss.”
Durant, who was full of praise for the two-time MVP Nikola Jokić and the top-seeded nuggets who, by his standards, have struggled in the series. He averaged 29.5 points per game but shot only 45.3% from the floor and 22.2% from 3-point range, and in Game 6 had 23 points on 8 of 19 shots.
Durant, who was limited to just eight regular-season games for the Suns due to injuries, said he didn’t want to “provide context” that would be taken as an apology.
“We just have to get better next year,” Durant said. “Right now it’s hard to see what the future holds for our team, but we have a good foundation and infrastructure. We can build on that and move on, learn from it and get better. I’m sure of it.” We’ll find out a little bit more as the summer and off-season rolls around.