It’s a bittersweet night for Suns fans. The postseason had alluded this fan base for over a decade. They were hungry to be there. They were grateful for meaningful NBA basketball in July. They were so close.
But they came up short.
It was a battle, but the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo were too much in Game 6, winning the series-clincher 105-96.
In a night where each moment can be put under a microscope, here are a few trends to take away from Game 6:
Giannis Went Full Freak
In front of Donald Driver, the original character to “put the team on his back,” The Greek Freak had a game fit for a video game. He ended up with 50 of the Bucks’ 105 points, 14 rebounds and was such a bully in the paint, Regina George would have had some entries in her burn book about the performance.
Giannis’ only “human” part of his game is typically at the free throw line, where he hits about 55% during the postseason and (takes a long time doing it). On Tuesday, he hit 17/19 from the line.
Truly an MVP moment when his team needed it most.
When the game entered the 4th quarter tied at 77, it felt like it there wasn’t a momentum swing one way or another. That quick swung the Bucks’ way thanks to Giannis, Bobby Portis and Jrue Holiday. While they outscored the Suns by seven, it felt like the lead was bigger and Milwaukee was firmly in control of the game as they clinched the championship.
For a series that was so defined by deep shots beyond the arc, both teams struggled, combining for 12/42 makes from 3-point land. Cameron Payne was the lone bright spot from deep for Phoenix, converting both of his 3-pointers.
The Suns point guard showed up big in Game 6, scoring 26 points and notching five assists. While he struggled in Games 3-5, he found his rhythm from midrange and helped keep the Suns in the game.
While the season did not end how the Suns would have liked, there’s no question the team improved by leaps and bounds from a 2020 season where they narrowly missed the postseason to two wins from the NBA championship.
The franchise standard has now changed and the team will no longer be a “surprise” contender.
Looking ahead, the first question will be if Chris Paul picks up his player option to return to team. The next will be how James Jones will add to this team and make this young core sustained fixtures.
While a 2021 championship would not have been discounted for the Suns – and it shouldn’t be for the Bucks – traditional powers should have their stars healthier. Whether it be LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Trae Young, this particularly injured postseason is hopefully a thing of the past for NBA fans.
How can the Suns build upon this foundation to help get them over the edge?
That conversation can be left for another day. For now, Suns fans can look back at this season knowing a playoff drought has ended, and it’s safe to assume they’ll be mainstays in the postseason again.