The Pheonix Suns bowed down to the Dallas Mavericks (123-90) in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals after an inexplicably underwhelming performance from their All-Stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Suns, who were the best regular season team in the NBA (standing-wise), showed no fight, no heart, and no execution in the final match as they concluded their best season in franchise history with a second-round exit.
What the hell happened?
The Mavericks came into the game as the more resilient and defensive-dominant team that limited the Suns to just 27 points in the first half. Led by Luka Doncic's (a legend in the making) 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists, the Mavericks were on a tear as their superstar had the same points (27) as the Suns at the end of the first half. No player from the Suns had more than 12 points by the end of the game.
"Just that we lost. You know that's the biggest thing and the fashion we did it in. You know, you can have those nights in the regular season and you have them here and there where your shot can't fall and they're hitting every shot and you know I think it just happened to be in the wrong timing in a Game 7," Devin Booker, who made just 3 out 14 shots from the field, said.
"We basically played the worst game of the season tonight," Suns head coach Monty Williams said. "All year long we've been hearing all the praises, winning all the games, and setting all the records and we've been taking it. Tonight you got to take it. You have to show character and integrity and take it. That's life," Williams added.
Williams, who acknowledged post-game that Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd outcoached him in the series, blamed the Suns' poor performance on himself. The Suns converted just 12 3-point shots in the closeout game, allowing the Mavs to shoot 56.8% from the field and 48.7% from the 3-point arch on 39 attempts. The Mavs were up by as much as 46 points at one point.
Point God CP3 was a mess throughout the game, scoring just 10 points, having a career-worst plus-minus of -39. This marks Paul's fifth playoff collapse when his team is up 2-0. When asked about his offseason plans, Paul immediately dismissed the rumors regarding his retirement.
"You play long enough, and you don't win, every time you lose, they're going to say it was your best chance. I think for me, us, we'll be right back next year. I'll tell you that much. I'm not retiring tomorrow. Thank God. Hopefully, I'm healthy," Paul said.
The Suns are the internet's biggest laughing stock
As expected, NBA fans and reporters took this opportunity to clown the Suns for their embarrassing effort in Game 7. Phoenix, who looked like the league's best team for majority of the year, went from dominating teams to bowing down to Doncic's Mavericks on their home floor. They went from bragging about their historic regular season accomplishments to looking like fools for taunting Doncic and the Mavs throughout the series.
Safe to say that Doncic and the Mavs had the last laugh while the Suns were booed on their home floor on their way out of the arena.
What's next for DeAndre Ayton and the Suns?
A surprising storyline in Game 7 was that Ayton only played for 17 minutes (0 in the fourth quarter) and ranked up an abysmal stat-line of just 5 points and 4 rebounds. The big man's performance certainly damaged his chance of acquiring a max extension that he demanded in the offseason. Ayton didn't address the media after Sunday's game.
"His contract situation is between him and the front office. I care about him as a brother. Just making sure his mental is right. Whatever happens, happens. Kind of hard to look so far in the future," Booker said when asked about his teammate's future.
Whether or not Ayton stays with the Suns will be something to look out for as the team heads into the offseason. Aside from their big man's future, there are many questions the Suns have to answer — Is building a team around CP3 still worth it? Is it time to add another All-Star? Can Booker bounce back and show up consistently in the playoffs? The Suns have a long summer ahead to look back on what went wrong.
But if there's one thing this Suns team proved, regular-season accomplishments don't mean a single thing if their so-called superstars don't show up when it matters most in the Playoffs.