PHOENIX — For the second straight yr, Suns level guard Chris Paul’s season got here to an finish along with his workforce failing to guard a 2-0 collection lead en path to a disappointing postseason exit.
And for the second straight yr, Paul felt compelled to announce he has no plans to stroll away from the sport within the instant aftermath of that devastation.
“You play lengthy sufficient and also you don’t win, each time you lose, they’re going to say it was your greatest likelihood,” stated Paul after the Suns’ 123-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Recreation 7 of the Western Convention semifinals Sunday. “However I feel for me, us, it’s we’ll be proper again subsequent yr. I’ll inform you that a lot.
“I’m not retiring tomorrow, thank God. Hopefully, I’m wholesome coming again. However I’m [going to] maintain taking part in.”
The way in which the collection went mirrored Paul’s play for the Suns. He averaged 23.5 factors and simply two turnovers within the first two video games — together with a masterful 14-point fourth quarter in Recreation 2 — and Phoenix took a 2-0 lead. However within the final 5 video games, all of which got here after his thirty seventh birthday on Could 6, he averaged 9.4 factors and three.6 turnovers. Phoenix misplaced 4 out of 5, collapsing in a similar way to its NBA finals loss to the Milwaukee Bucks when two wins have been adopted by 4 losses.
Paul was ineffective on Sunday, ending with 10 factors and 4 assists, however not scoring his first subject objective till the Suns have been already down by 40 factors within the third quarter. He actually limped to the end line, taking part in via a left quad problem that restricted his mobility, sources advised ESPN.
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Whereas Suns coach Monty Williams, who was named the NBA Coach of the 12 months earlier this week for guiding Phoenix to a franchise-record 64 wins within the common season and the No. 1 total seed within the playoffs, took the blame for the loss, Paul wouldn’t settle for that.
“I feel we simply got here out and simply didn’t have sufficient,” stated Paul after the Suns’ 30-point halftime deficit represented the biggest halftime margin in Recreation 7 historical past, based on ESPN Stats & Data analysis. “I feel Mont stated that’s on him, however I feel that’s on me, as the purpose guard, the chief of the workforce. To come back out and ensure you’re getting the precise photographs and all that.”
Mavs star Luka Doncic singlehandedly stored tempo with the Suns, scoring 27 factors of his personal within the first half to match Phoenix’s 27 as a workforce. Dallas was up 57-27 on the break and pushed its result in as many as 46 factors within the fourth quarter — the widest margin in a Recreation 7 within the final 25 years, based on knowledge compiled by ESPN Stats & Data.
Whereas Paul completed with the worst plus-minus of his 17-year profession between the common season and playoffs mixed — the Suns have been outscored by 39 within the 31 minutes he performed — it wasn’t like his teammates did significantly better. Devin Booker, who was Phoenix’s different All-Star this season in addition to Paul, scored 11 factors on 3-for-14 capturing, far beneath his 26.5 factors per recreation common over the past two postseasons coming into Sunday.
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“They did a superb job of getting the ball out of my palms and trapping each motion I used to be in,” Booker stated.
Suns huge man Deandre Ayton completed with simply 5 factors and 4 rebounds. He was pulled with 8:26 remaining within the third quarter and didn’t get again within the recreation after exchanging phrases with Williams on the bench.
“It’s inside,” Williams stated, tersely, when requested to clarify why Ayton solely performed 17 minutes, the third-fewest minutes the previous No. 1 choose performed in throughout any recreation in his profession.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd stated the enormity of the second within the win-or-go-home recreation may need gotten to the Suns.
“You can see a few of the stress was most likely on them early,” Kidd stated, “as a result of they missed some photographs they usually make.”
The Suns didn’t make excuses afterward.
“We mainly performed our worst recreation of the season tonight,” Williams stated. “I talked to them about all yr lengthy we’ve been listening to all of the praises, profitable all of the video games and setting data and all that stuff. We’ve been taking it. Properly, tonight you’ve bought to take it [too]. That’s part of manhood.”
Phoenix joined the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors and 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs because the third workforce in league historical past to win at the very least 64 video games within the common season and fail to advance to at the very least the convention finals. The 60 mixed factors the Suns misplaced Video games 6 and seven by represented the second-largest rating distinction over Video games 6 and seven of a playoff collection, going all the way in which again to 1962 when the Warriors beat the St. Louis Bombers by 62 over the ultimate two video games, per ESPN Stats & Data analysis.
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“It was a superb, old style ass-whooping,” Booker stated. “Starting to finish.”
Paul is now 3-5 in Recreation 7s in his profession, having misplaced 4 in a row and the 2021-22 Suns are actually a poster little one for developing small in an enormous second.
As sensible as Doncic and the Mavs seemed Sunday, the Suns have been a dominant group all season — the one workforce to rank within the prime 5 each offensively and defensively — till they weren’t. They went from house owners of a first-place file to authors of one of many worst performances in NBA postseason historical past in a matter of 48 minutes.