The Phoenix Suns capped off their magical run in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble on Thursday afternoon with a 128-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks in their final seeding game. Phoenix was led by Devin Booker’s 27-point, 7-assist, 5-rebound outing, and with the win, they secured the distinction of being the only team to go 8-0 while in the Bubble.
The bad news is that while they took care of business in a way that even the most optimistic Suns fan could not have seen coming, their future is out of their own hands. Due to the 119-106 win by the Memphis Grizzlies over the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, Phoenix has to sit and wait with bated breath to see what happens in Thursday evening’s game between the scorching hot Portland Trail Blazers and the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets.
The Suns’ postseason prospects are dependent on the Nets knocking off the Blazers. This is a gigantic ask for Brooklyn, which have played well in the Bubble and boast a surprising 5-2 record but are tasked with figuring out a way to slow down Damian Lillard. The Blazers are also 5-2 in the Bubble, thanks in large part to the play of Lillard, who has been out of his mind and is the favorite to be named the MVP of the Bubble’s seeding games — he’s averaging 37 points and 9.3 assists in 41.4 minutes per game in the Bubble while connecting on 41.4 percent of his triples.
Still, anything can happen in that game (as the Bucks learned against Brooklyn recently), which tips off at 9 p.m. EST on TNT. Even if Portland wins, though, Phoenix can leave the Bubble with their heads held high. Again, absolutely no one could have seen them going 8-0 in seeding games. They were the most wonderfully cohesive team in the entire Bubble — Booker looked like he made the leap from an extremely good player on a middling team to a legitimate superstar. Deandre Ayton gave plenty of reminders of his considerable potential. The team’s role players were fantastic, whether it was Mikal Bridges flashing as much potential as any young 3-and-D wing in the league, Cam Johnson showing some scoring punch, Ricky Rubio providing his perpetually-steady hand in the backcourt, Dario Saric shining off the bench, or Cameron Payne providing surprisingly quality minutes after being a last-minute signing.
Two things that Phoenix has been missing for quite some time have been a solid foundation that the team can build on and the kind of stability that you need to build. Monty Williams, in his first year in charge, has done a wonderful job building a culture and getting buy-in from everyone, which includes a front office that hasn’t exactly established itself as one that consistently makes the best decisions. Add in what these players have shown in Orlando and it’s evident that something special is brewing in Phoenix.
It’s a bit unfortunate that we may not get to see if this group can get a shot at the most unlikely of playoff berths. The Suns are extremely fun, play hard, and have a sense of belief about them that would make them an absolutely wonderful squad to watch in the postseason. It all comes down to the Nets, but even if the Blazers come out on top, a mic’d up Ayton put things succinctly at the end of their win against the Mavs.
“A fourth season with all of us?” Ayton asked. “Aye, NBA, we’ll be back next year. We’ll be back. We proved ourselves, though. Put some respect on our names.”