One of the best stories in the NBA came to a shocking and disappointing close Monday night in Phoenix.
In a battle that had a direct bearing on the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the final Playoff spot remaining to be set, the Suns fell short against a team they have struggled with all year. The Grizzlies left no doubt in bulldozing through the Suns in the final moments of Monday’s game. Phoenix let the moment get to them after the team made a small comeback to make it a game. The Grizzlies had the poise to execute at the end.
This game was not how the Suns season was expected to end. Not because the Suns missed the Playoffs. That was expected. But because Phoenix even had that chance.
This was a Suns team many expected to lose and lose badly this season. Sure Eric Bledsoe was an interesting talent, but Alex Len was a project and Goran Dragic was over the hill, right? Right?
Jeff Hornacek put himself in the Coach of the Year discussion with how he got his team to believe they could do something really special this year. The Suns won 47 games and could tie the NBA record for most wins by a non-Playoff team with 48 if they can win their final game. No one would blame them if they did not.
There was a lot of emotion left out on the U.S. Airways Center court Monday night. Both from the team and the fans.
Markieff Morris scored 21 points off the bench. Goran Dragic, who is getting All-NBA consideration, struggled on his way to 14 points. This scrappy effort was really what the Suns were about all year and made them the darling of the league. Certainly the best story of the year.
Unfortunately, those roster problems showed their head against the Grizzlies.
As brilliant as Phoenix can be offensively, the team lacked size on the inside. The Suns relied heavily on Channing Frye, the Morris twins and raw rookie Alex Len on the interior. Zach Randolph ate that up for 32 points in this critical game. Phoenix just did not have it at the end of the season.
That included blowing a double digit lead against the Spurs last weekend and losing to the Mavericks too. Phoenix did not have the magic to keep the Playoff dreams alive. Disappointing for sure.
But not all bad. The Suns accomplished a lot and proved that games are not played on paper. They did not achieve their Playoff goal, but they certainly reminded everyone of that.
With so many teams accused of tanking this year, the Suns were a reminder that the present still matters. The Suns have a nice core that is relatively young. They will be back next year, perhaps to surprise us all.