DALLAS – Game 7. Two of the biggest words in the vernacular game.
Unless you’re cheering the Days.
Well, Valley sports fans. The best regular-season team in the NBA is testing our nerves. And themselves.
“I don’t think we understand the desperation they’re going to play,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “Pair that with the turnovers we had tonight, and it’s a recipe for what we got.”
Strange. How many times have we heard the same cry this postseason alone?
There was a time when the Suns were the best team on the basketball road. That is no longer the case. They scored 86 points and shot 39.7% from the field in a possible closeout game. And from the second quarter, there wasn’t much faith to be seen on the floor of the American Airlines Center on Thursday.
Luka Doncic wanted all the smoke, dominating almost every defender sent in his path. His teammates made their open shots. The Mavericks made 10 more three-point shots than the Suns and attempted 21 more from the front of the arc. This is a very different version of Special Luke.
Oh, we’ve seen this game.
“Let’s watch the film and see what we need to do better,” Chris Paul said. “The only saving grace in this situation is our return home.”
The Suns have gained a wealth of playoff experience the past two seasons. Thursday’s 27-point loss to the Mavericks was the 34th playoff game since Paul arrived in Phoenix. But as a group, they have no Game 7 experience to gain. And after yet another blast of road losses, it’s fair to say the vulnerability and mental health of this basketball team.
Paul was again largely ineffective, wearing the toll of constant full-court pressure and heavy minutes on defense against larger opponents. He seemed so relieved that the Suns had one more day to get up before Sunday’s tipoff.
After a strong performance in Game 5, there is hope that the Suns have already found themselves. That they have finally lifted the formidable Mavericks and are ready to continue their championship quest. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.
Devin Booker was silent in the middle of two quarters. Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder are not factors. The Suns made 22 turnovers, giving them 56 in three games in Dallas. Sixteen of those turnovers occurred in Dallas steals. Overall, it was one of the most disorganized offensive performances of the season.
“I always say that turnovers are like interceptions,” Paul said.
On the other hand, in the second consecutive game, Cam Payne and JaVale McGee were out of rotation. Aaron Holiday never got out of the bench, even in mop-up duty. You’d be amazed if the Days were lost on their feet, their identity and a bit of their pride.
After the game, Williams realized inside the locker room that the Mavericks were playing harder than the Suns. This is yet another recurring issue that has shaken the faith of Planet Orange, where the postseason encore is a strange mixture of euphoria and slog.
Here’s the silver lining: The Suns ’relentless focus and preparation during the regular season gave them a home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Their dedication and respect for the game will give them an army of support on Sunday, when they need it most.
“You’ll accept it,” Williams said.
“It’s going to win or go home,” Paul said.
“Best two words in sports,” Booker said.
If you can win.
Reach Bickley at [email protected] Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 am – 10 am on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.