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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Palmore

For All the Acclaim the Phoenix Suns are getting, they better win the NBA Finals this year

After a crushing 4-2 series lost against the Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals, the Suns are playing like they are ready for the opportunity to redeem themselves. Last night in what was a "Revenge Game" for Phoenix, they sent a message to the Bucks as they blew them out 131-107 and held Giannis to 18 points on 35% shooting from the floor. While the Suns have an amazing team, great coaching staff, and are led by a stud backcourt, they still need to prove they can get the job done when it matters most.

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The Phoenix Suns currently boast a 45-10 record which is good for first in the Western Conference by a comfortable 4.5 games. While I do not want to diminish the incredible season Phoenix is having, I believe they should be getting the same treatment all the flashy regular season teams have gotten in the past. The Suns need to prove that they can get the job done and execute when it matters most. They were able to take advantage of an injured Lakers team in the first round last year, a Nuggets team that was missing Jamal Murray in the second round, and a Kawhi-less Clippers team in the conference finals.

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The Suns were able to take full advantage of the shorthanded teams in the playoffs and the Bucks were the first fully healthy team they faced (Although they were missing Donte Divincenzo). The series started off amazing for Phoenix as the Suns took the first two games in convincing fashion on their home court, but once the series shifted to Milwaukee and really, once Giannis figured out how to give the Suns trouble, Phoenix collapsed. The Suns lost four games in a row and Giannis scored 41, 26, 32, and 50 respectively in those games. It was a disappointing end to what had been a magical season for the Suns as they blew a 2-0 lead on the NBA's biggest stage.

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Phoenix is led by Chris Paul who is no doubt one of the greatest point guards ever, but his playoff resume is not exactly something to brag about. He obviously broke through and made his first finals appearance, but he also has four blown 2-0 series leads on his resume and Chris Paul has lost seven playoff series' in which his team led at some point. Obviously that is not entirely on him, but for someone who is constantly called a top five point guard of all time and is always heavily praised for his leadership skills, this should not be something on his resume.

There have been plenty of teams in recent memory who have had spectacular regular seasons, lost badly in the playoffs, and got criticized for it constantly until they were able to break through. The most recent is examples include the 2019 and 2020 Milwaukee Bucks teams with the best regular season records in back to back years and zero finals appearances. In 2018-2019, Milwaukee won 60 games and was coasting through the playoffs until they ran into the eventual champion Raptors who they blew a 2-0 lead to in the conference finals. The next year, the Bucks got off to a sensational start just like these Suns and at one point had a 53-9 record before the NBA season was shutdown due to COVID. In the bubble, they lost to the Miami Heat in an embarrassing fashion in the second round. The following year, everybody gave the Bucks little to no attention in the regular season because their wins were viewed as irrelevant because they had not broken through and won a title.

The Utah Jazz also come to mind when it comes to this subject because they have had great success in the regular season, but have not played up to their regular season level of play in the playoffs. In the first round against the Nuggets in 2020, Utah blew a 3-1 lead and then proceeded to have the best record in the league the next year in the regular season. However, they lost to the Clippers in the second round after blowing a 2-0 lead to a Clippers team that was missing Kawhi Leonard.

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It's interesting that Chris Paul and the Suns have seemed to escape some of the harsh criticism that fans and the media have given to teams of the past who couldn't finish the job in the postseason. It would be best to proceed with caution when anointing the Suns as the clear favorites to win the West or even the NBA title because there is no reason to believe they won't come up short again. If a great team is able to escape criticism for collapsing on Basketball's biggest stage, maybe it's time re-evaluate just how "great" the Suns really are.

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