The Phoenix Suns failed to secure a trip to the NBA Finals when they lost at home to the L.A. Clippers in Game 5 Monday night 116-102. They still have a good chance at reaching their first NBA Finals since 1993, but now must win a Game 6 in Los Angeles on Wednesday or face a Game 7 winner-take-all back here in Phoenix on Friday.
Here’s a look back at the five biggest takeaways we had from the previous weekend in sports.
1. Suns survive low-scoring Game 4.
Phoenix never trailed in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals and led by as many as 16 points against the Clippers on Saturday night. If you only knew that sentence about the game, you’d assume it was a major blowout, right? It turned out to be the lowest scoring game in the NBA of this season (regular or post) because neither team could hit a shot in the fourth quarter. The Suns held on to win 84-80 thanks to a handful of Chris Paul free throws in the closing seconds (and some key misses from the Clippers) and Phoenix has a 3-1 series lead with a chance to close it out in Game 5 Monday night here at home.
Big Takeaway: The Suns scored only 34 points in the second half Saturday and still won a playoff game on the road. If that doesn’t give you “team of destiny” vibes, I don’t know what will.
2. Deandre Ayton is playing his best basketball.
The Suns center posted two monster stat lines in the last week: 24 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2 Tuesday night; and 19 points and 22 rebounds in 41 minutes on Saturday. Plus, he dunked an inbound pass from Jae Crowder with 0.9 seconds to play to win Game 2 – one of the most iconic plays in Suns franchise history, now simply known as The Valley-Oop.
Big Takeaway: Not a bad week for Ayton, who is giving his teammates all the credit, by the way. After the Game 4 win, Ayton said point guard Chris Paul is the best thing that has happened to his career. Ayton is playing the best basketball of his career at exactly the right moment for a team seeking its first championship trophy. Ayton is also entering the final year of his rookie contract and his play is earning him a big payday coming soon.
3. Face mask Booker short-lived?
Suns guard Devin Booker reportedly broke his nose in three places during Game 2 when Clippers guard Patrick Beverly butted his forehead into Booker’s face. Book returned later in the game with gauze in his nostrils to stop the bleeding and bandages over the cuts near the top of his nose where contact was made. In Game 3, Booker wore a clear, protective face mask and came out flat, scoring 15 points in perhaps his worst game of this postseason run. In Game 4, he was a bit better, scoring a game high 25 points before fouling out – and at one point he decided he had enough of the face shield because it was clearly effecting his performance.
Big Takeaway: Booker was clearly bothered trying to play with the head gear and would rather risk busting his nose into a million pieces than missing shots. That’s the kind of grit that wins championships.
4. D-backs end record road skid.
The Arizona Diamondbacks ended a pair of losing streaks in the past week. It started with a Monday win over Milwaukee to snap a 17-game overall losing streak. The D-backs then put to bed their MLB record 24-game road losing streak with a win at San Diego Saturday night. The team was able to tweet about a road win for the first time since April 25.
Big Takeaway: Pitcher Merrill Kelly started both games the D-backs won last week, which means he’s clearly the ace of the staff, right? That’s yet another low point for this team in an already historically bad season. The tank is on for the No. 1 draft pick in 2022 and superstar high school prospect Elijah Green.
5. Golf playoff goes on far too long.
The final round at the PGA Tour Traveler’s Championship seemed to never end on Sunday. Kramer Hickok and Harris English were tied at the end of 72 holes and went into a sudden death playoff, where neither golfer could make a birdie to win the tournament. The two pros made par on each of the first seven playoff holes before English finally made bird on the eighth hole to win
Big Takeaway: Going through that many playoff holes with no birdies was painful to watch, especially when they play the same holes (17 and 18) over and over. Time for the PGA Tour to change up the format when a playoff goes on for too long (more than two holes) and go play another hole on the course.