With the Phoenix Suns down 0-2 in a playoff series for the first time in the Devin Booker era, torches and pitchforks are being wielded with abandon by fans, media and casual onlookers alike.
I can’t tell you how many well wishers (“Dave, I love the Phoenix Suns!...”) have come up to me in the last few days to good-naturedly crow (“...but I knew from the moment of that trade the Suns were doomed”). They go on to say the Suns can’t win with an offense out of the 90s, despite few of them being old enough to have personally witnessed 90s basketball.
The more active sports fans who listen to podcasts or watch ESPN each morning — I mean, aren’t you working? We work at the same place and its a day job, bub — say they knew the Suns had no depth and that Kevin Durant isn’t that guy.
The ones who are long-suffering Suns addicts parrot everyone else, while also sprinkling in “I wish there was a Vegas bet on the game Chris Paul goes down — I’d have won big money!”.
And somehow, despite all the Sportsbooks picking the Suns to win this series and even represent the West before Game 1 tipoff, every one of these folks is saying how much more talented Denver is than the Suns.
How can both of those be true?
How can Denver be way more talented AND everyone think the Suns would win that series, or that it was at least a toss-up?
Going up 2-0 on your home floor in a playoff setting is what’s supposed to happen. That’s why people gasp whenever a home team loses one of the first two games. It doesn’t mean you’re way more talented than the road team.
Remember when we thought the Suns were more talented than the Bucks? Some pundits even predicted a Suns sweep after going up 2-0 in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Remember when we thought the Suns were more talented than the Dallas Mavericks? Almost every pundit predicted a Suns sweep after the Suns went up 2-0 with a pair of convincing wins.
Don’t talk to me about Monty getting outcoached in those series. Yes those coaches pushed all the right buttons, but those same coaches are already on summer vacation this year and being partially blamed for their teams’ too-early demise.
At least one of them will get fired this summer. Update: NBA Champ coach Mike Budenholzer was fired just as this article was being published. Jason Kidd might not be far behind.
Coaches don’t actually win games. Players do. Coaching is about setting up your guys to succeed with the right schemes and options on both offense and defense, then it’s up to the players to execute and play better than they’ve ever played before.
What really happened in Suns-Bucks and Suns-Mavericks was that all the players on the other teams raised their games a notch or three from Game 3 forward. Giannis and Luka became the best player on the floor. They became unstoppable. Up and down the roster, their players started to outplay their Suns counterparts. And that was after those teams got down 0-2.
Now it’s time for the Suns to turn the tables.
It’s time for Devin Booker to have more influence on the outcome than Nikola Jokic. It’s time for Kevin Durant to outplay Jamal Murray. It’s time for Deandre Ayton to have better games than Aaron Gordon. And so on and so forth.
The Suns have nothing to lose. The weight of expectations has been lifted. They’ve lost Chris Paul to injury. Kevin Durant looks uncertain. The bench looks scared. Nobody thinks the Suns can win this series. So why not just go ahead and do it? Three of the next four are at home. Just win your home games and you force a Game 7.
It starts on Friday night. In Game 3. At Footprint Center.