PHOENIX — For the second straight season, the Phoenix Suns were eliminated at home in humiliating fashion.
Phoenix’s 125-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Thursday night’s Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals was eerily similar to the Dallas Mavericks’ Game 7 dominance in Footprint Center in the same round.
The halftime deficit — 30 points — was even identical. So was the reaction from Suns fans, many of whom loudly booed at the half and headed for the exits with plenty of time remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It sucked,” said Kevin Durant, whose arrival in a midseason trade made the Suns the betting favorite to win the West. “It was a bad feeling. Embarrassing.”
Devin Booker left the arena without speaking to the media, an extremely uncharacteristic move for the face of the Suns’ franchise.
Booker averaged 33.7 points per game this postseason but had a poor performance as the Suns were eliminated. He scored 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, a close facsimile of his off night in last year’s elimination loss to the Mavs (11 points, 3-of-14 shooting).
The Suns, who were missing starters Chris Paul (groin) and Deandre Ayton (ribs), became the third team in NBA history with be eliminated from the playoffs in consecutive seasons with 25-plus-point losses, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Suns coach Monty Williams acknowledged that it’s a “bad feeling” to be eliminated by blowouts in consecutive years but downplayed the link between the lopsided losses.
“I mean, it’s two different groups,” Williams said. “Last year’s team was totally different than this year’s team. Last year’s team was more of a ball-movement, body-movement team. This year we’re more pick-and-roll oriented and iso oriented, so it’s two different situations altogether. That’s something that we need to take a look at to see what kinds of combinations of players we have to fit the style of play. But it’s hard to make assessments about those kinds of things 20 minutes after a loss.”
Durant, who had high praise for two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the top-seeded Nuggets, struggled by his standards in the series. He averaged 29.5 points per game but shot only 45.3% from the floor and 22.2% from 3-point range, finishing by scoring 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting in Game 6.
Durant, who was limited to only eight regular-season games with the Suns due to injuries, said he didn’t want to “provide context” that would be perceived as an excuse.
“We just got to be better next year,” Durant said. “It’s hard right now to see what the future will hold for our team, but we got a good foundation, good infrastructure. We can build on and move on from this and learn from it and get better from it. I’m sure as the summer and offseason starts, we’ll figure that out a little bit more.”