Phoenix Suns’ Journey of Redemption Begins with a Loss in Game 1 Against the Clippers
The Phoenix Suns’ journey of redemption in the playoffs began with a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1. The theme of the postseason is atonement, a word that interestingly doesn’t contain the letter “L”. However, cannot say the same for the Sun’s playoff record
The Suns had many chances to win the odd and chaotic game. With heightened urgency and defensive tenacity, they finally wrestled control of the matter in the third period but gave it all back alarmingly fast. While their defensive tenacity and rim protection was excellent in the second half, their offense struggled down the stretch. Too many shots were taken by players not named Devin Booker or Kevin Durant.
The possession that took the life out of the building and the energy out of the home team was following a timeout with 1:08 remaining, where the Clippers retained possession for the next 51 seconds, producing offensive rebounds on three different missed shots.
Russell Westbrook, who was arguably the Suns’ MVP for most of the night, took a break from the bricklaying (3-of-19 shooting) to make a series of huge plays. One of them included a smothering defensive stop on Booker, who curiously attempted to drive to the basket with the Suns trailing by three points.
The Suns’ brutal and plodding start dredged up painful memories of their Game 7 debacle against Dallas. It marked another night of playoff disappointment at Footprint Center.
Head coach Monty Williams said, “It’s one game. We’ll look at film, regroup and get ready for a big game here when we show up on Tuesday.” Williams utilized 11 of his players and started Torrey Craig over Josh Okogie. To his credit, Craig was one of the top performers, scoring 22 points in just under 27 minutes.
But the Suns were also exposed by two of their primary weaknesses. Their bench was outscored 34-10, and the Clippers made 10-of-31 three-point shots on the evening, including a few devastating treys late in the fourth quarter.
With anxiety already growing in the Valley, it’s incumbent on Williams to get his offense and his rotation in synch. He needs to make sure his two superstars are running the show in the final five minutes, just like Kawhi Leonard (38 points) carried the Clippers to the finish line.
The Suns’ loss is not a cause for panic, but given their collective history, the mild concern is appropriate. They haven’t been properly tested down the stretch, and their sample size with Durant wasn’t enough to build the cohesion and trust necessary to succeed in the playoffs.
The new owner Mat Ishbia has high expectations for this team to produce now, and there’s an element of pressure on Williams that’s only going to get louder, especially after losing Game 1 at home.