LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Two weeks ago, 22 teams entered the NBA’s restart. Each team to play eight seeding games. The Suns were all but mathematically eliminated the moment they landed in Orlando.
What they pulled off was the type of magic you see in a Disney movie, except this was real life, just no fairy tale ending.
“We changed how people look at us,” Devin Booker said after Thursday's game.
The Suns did everything possible. Winning every game, hitting the biggest shot of a future MVP’s career, but it just wasn’t enough.
It marks the first time in NBA history that a team has ended the regular season on an 8-game winning streak and still missed the playoffs. Winning eight straight and missing the playoffs isn't fun, the last 14 days were.
“It has probably been the highlight of my head coaching career or at least one of the them,” said head coach Monty Williams. “Just how much fun I’ve had here with our guys.”
These Suns didn’t just give us good basketball, they gave Phoenix its heartbeat back. From the Dan Majerle-like hustle of Cam Johnson, Dario Saric, Javon Carter and Cameron Payne to the trending Mikal Bridges, to the big man (Deandre Ayton) with range and the right man (Monty Williams) for the job.
“I got to tell you guys, man, I love you,” Williams said in an emotional locker room speech to his team before the Portland/Brooklyn game. “I don’t care what happens tonight, I know what I got in this room. It has been cool for me to be with y’all every day, and gain the respect of your peers the way you have on this trip."
"We’re not the Suns of old. You’ve been through a lot (pointing at Devin Booker). You’ve been through a lot (pointing at Booker again). It’s hard to play the way you’ve played every single night and not get the respect that you deserve. Guess what? You got it… Now we got to build on it.”
Phoenix has always been basketball town at its’ core. We got the hardware and the old tapes from the Madhouse and America West to prove it. While this 10-year playoff drought will continue for now, the passion, the orange, the basketball, the Suns are back.