Whether it was from producing huge dunks, playing great defence, blocking shots or showing off his freakish athleticism, Andrew Wiggins did all that and…
Now that the dust has settled after game 7 Western Conference Semi Finals in Phoenix we need to talk, about many things.
First things first, Luka Doncic’s game 7 performance will go down in history as legendary. It had all the hallmarks of a Larry Bird ‘back-to-the-wall’ performance up against a wall of impossibility.
The Suns were predicted to breeze past the Mavericks who had been mediocre for the most part of the regular season until hitting form back in January. But no one had them pegged to beat the Suns, no one! The Suns had the best regular season, home and road record.
The signs began to emerge during the opening round of the playoffs where the Pelicans went all out on Chris Paul showing the future Hall of Famer no respect and tying him in knots forcing the Point God to make unusually high number of turnovers by smothering him.
Paul was rattled in that series, he didn’t like it and the Pelicans got under his skin and even snatched game 2 in Phoenix. The Suns were bailed out by the return of Devin Booker from injury eventually winning the series 4-2, many would have predicted 4-1 or even a sweep so the credit goes to rookie coach Willie Green, a former student of Suns coach Monty Williams who is doing great things with the young Pelicans list.
The Suns entered the Western Conference Semi Finals with confidence knowing they had the Mavs measure during the regular season winning all three encounters, Doncic was injured for two of those games.
The series flowed as expected with the Suns picking up the first two games in Phoenix with relative ease, as the did the Mavs on the return leg of game 3 and 4 with a hostile crowd to welcome the Suns.
Paul was having trouble on and off the court in Dallas verbally interjecting with a fan who allegedly heckled members of Paul’s family. The fan was ejected but not without some choice words from Paul as he was led out by security.
Games 5 and 6 continued to follow the trend seeing the home team dish out respective hidings to the visitor, it all came down to an unexpected game 7 decider in Phoenix, in which the pattern was expected continue and the Suns clinch a drawn out 7 game series, Luka Doncic says ‘hold my beer’…
The Mavs started game 7 on fire torching the Suns to lead by 10 at the first break, a vicious response was expected from the Suns but it never came. The Suns looked completely disorganised, bewildered and overwhelmed by the Mavs and Doncic’s tenacity, the Mavs outscored the Suns 30-10 in the second to take a 30 point lead into the main break. The NBA world was stunned by the ruthless show Luka Doncic was putting on with ample support coming in from Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie.
The Suns never recovered and things got worse when Suns coach Monty Williams benched Deandre Ayton early in the third and later stating in his post-game press conference that the issue was ‘internal’. The rumour mill has been in overdrive as to what exactly was said between the two on the bench but whatever it was it wasn’t positive as the situation was apparently heated and the two had to be separated.
The Mavs cantered to an unthinkable game 7 and series victory on the top seeded Suns home deck at one point leading by 46 points, the result is up there with some of the all-time playoff flops. Doncic finished with 35 points shooting 54.5 percent from the arc with excellent support from Brunson 24 points and Dinwiddie a playoffs career high 30 points off the bench.
Cameron Johnson was the highest contributor from the Suns with 12 points off the bench.
Where did it all go wrong for the near flawless Suns of 2021-22?
There are reports Ayton is still incensed by Phoenix’s decision not to offer him a max contract prior to the beginning of this season his fourth since being drafted as the number 1 pick in 2018. Ayton could be on the move if he is not rewarded with what he believes he is worth, but there is more to it.
The Suns already have salary cap issues with Booker and Paul draining a lot of the cap already which has many scratching their head wondering is CP3 at 37 years of age worth 30 million per year?
CP3 has been amazing this season especially in the clutch and when Booker was out injured, but CP3 went missing in the playoffs badly looking to struggle with the added attention of double teaming and aggressive guarding. He made unusually high turnover numbers and struggled to trouble the stats sheet – it was bizarre.
The issues with Ayton seem to be off the court as questions have been raised about his general attitude and discipline toward preparation for games.
It will take a front office miracle to keep the band together going beyond this off-season so maybe the Suns have a real tough call to make, do they keep the Booker-CP3 foundation together and trade Ayton or continue to build around Booker and Ayton and moving CP3 on.
There seems to be more longevity and sustained success potential in the Booker-Ayton partnership but they may lack leadership in Paul’s absence.
By trading Ayton can they bring in the right pieces to remain a contender? It’s going to be an off-season to watch closely in Phoenix as to how this one plays out and who will reach out first and make the call to start patching things up or is the damage done.