If you reflect on the outlook before Wednesday night’s game, what was the actual meaning of the game going to be? Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker actually referred to it a few days ago, stating, “it’d be nice to win, but it’s one out of 82”.
In many ways the Suns were in a lose-lose situation against the Dallas Mavericks — win and you do what was expected, still without the spoils of the second-round playoff meeting. Lose, and after that postseason defeat, to go with a tumultuous offseason, the pressure expands tenfold.
The Phoenix Suns threaded a small but vitally important needle in their 107-105 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Footprint Center.
There was really only one way Phoenix could take something major from this game, at least more extensive than bright individual performances. You could argue the two-point win, delivered through a Damion Lee game-winner in the final ten seconds, was more valuable than what a 30-point blowout win would have been.
Phoenix were staring down the barrel of another embarrassment — down 22 early in the third, then 15 again with 8:30 to play in the fourth. The reaction in the NBA world would have been palpable, and in fact it was, with fans rightfully outlining the ongoing issues of bench depth among other problems.
It would have been impossible for players and coaches not to feel that — to understand the context of the game, the opponent, and the arena in which it was taking place. To produce another comeback, after all their efforts in the third were seemingly undone by a sizzling stretch from Christian Wood, took guts, resilience and mental fortitude.
It’s ironic but maybe not so random that, in the end, the key piece was delivered by someone who didn’t feel the pain of last season’s playoff loss. Lee hadn’t been burnt by history and conversely, was the only player from either team who’d felt the ultimate jubilation just months ago.
Yet even outside Lee, this wasn’t a Suns team that went into their shell, that folded under the weight of pressure. Devin Booker’s masterful command of the offense showed a leadership that was barren in game seven.
There are genuine issues and challenges ahead, the first half proved the roster is far from perfect. But sometimes you just need some genuine positivity, a kickstart, a reminder of what you’re capable of.
Phoenix have been batted with negativity for a number of months, and it feels as if that win, as insignificant as it may seem as one of 82, may help shed the gloom and darkness that’s been hanging over the franchise.