The Phoenix Suns were shocked, stunned, and silenced in their 123-90 Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. And yet somehow, the final deficit of 33 points is misleading in illustrating how far apart these two teams were.
A Game 7 loss at home is brutal and heartbreaking, but not nearly as rare as you would think. In the 110 previous Games 7s before Sunday, the home team had lost 31 times (excluding the 2020 NBA Bubble Playoffs), giving the road team a not-too-shabby winning percentage of .282%.
But only twice before has a team lost by 30+ points: the 1970 Phoenix Suns who lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Division semifinals, 129-97; and the St. Louis Bombers who lost to the Philadelphia Warriors 85-46 in the 1948 BAA (Basketball Association of America) semifinals.
In the defense of both these teams, neither of them trailed by 30+ at halftime.
The 1970 Suns were on the road and had a losing regular-season record of 39-43 and barely scraped into the eight-team playoff format that year.
And while the 1948 Bombers had homecourt advantage and held the best regular-season record that year just like the 2022 Suns, it feels wrong to try and compare last night’s game with a game that was closer to the start of World War 1 and predates the creation of the National Basketball Association.
So this is not hyperbole. This is not a knee-jerk reaction. There is no getting around it.
Last night’s game was the worst Game 7 performance in NBA history.
While there have certainly been upsets, collapses, and blowouts throughout NBA history, there was only one game that personally came to mind during yesterday's game: Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals, between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.
Primarily known as the night when the Rockets missed 27 straight threes, there are several eerie similarities between the 2018 Rockets and the 2022 Suns.
Both teams won 60+ games en route to earning the top regular-season record in their respective years, with the Rockets going 65-17 and the Suns going 64-18.
Both teams had won Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead over their opponents, only to lose Game 6 by 25+ points on the road.
And finally, both teams had future Hall of Famer Chris Paul on their roster. Paul famously missed Games 6 and 7 in 2018 due to a right hamstring strain, and while he did play all seven games in this year’s series, it has since come out that Paul might’ve been playing through a left quad injury.
But the biggest similarity of all between the two games was the tension in the respective arenas. Nervous energy filled both the Toyota Center and the Footprint Center, radiating off of the anxious home crowd as they watched their team implode right in front of them. Even for those of us sitting at home, you could feel just how tight the players on both teams were.
And worst of all, in both cases, the opposing team knew it and fed off of it. The Rockets only lost by nine that night, but it felt and looked as crushing and demoralizing for the Rockets’ fans and players as last night was for the Suns’ fans and players.
Phoenix must now face the harsh reality of addressing how to come back from such a horrific playoff exit. Hopefully, the Suns' will do better than the Rockets did in this regard.