The cognoscenti almost unanimously said it couldn’t be done, and in the end the Suns didn’t do it.
But to their considerable credit they kept the issue in doubt right down to the 53-second mark in the fourth period of Game Six when Kobe Bryant sealed their doom with a shot only he would think of taking, let alone make.
I would say it was miraculous, except that he had hit another one much like it a minute earlier to push the lead back up to five. He scored 9 of his 37 points in the last two minutes. Before he heated back up the Lakers were pretty much in collapse mode, managing only four points in the first six minutes of that fourth period and looking downright Clipperish.
And to paraphrase one of the late Dizzy Dean’s oft-quoted lines, “If Kobe isn’t the best player in the game today he’s certainly amongst ‘em, Peewee.”
Although the Suns came within a nanosecond of perhaps taking control of the series in Game Five in Los Angeles, and appeared to have the champs on the ropes late in this one, the bottom line is the Suns were thoroughly outplayed for long stretches in both of the last two games.
Translation: In spite of the fact they twice stormed back to make the Lakers squirm at the finish, there can be no doubt the best team won. (So okay, everybody else knew that way before I did. So sue me).
I know I picked the Suns in Six and cited their superior depth and much improved defense, and edge in weapons of mass destruction. But alas, the only part I got right was the six.
I obviously underestimated the Lakers as a team and overestimated Kobe’s health problems, for which I offer a large mea culpa (something I have had years of practiced doing). But these Suns don’t have to apologize to anybody for anything. Their whole exceeded the sum of their parts, and their can be no more proud epitaph for any team.
I blogged back in December that they had a chance to become a very special group, and that part I got right.
Coach Alvin, as gracious in defeat as he has been in victory, nailed it when he said, “There have been no negatives to anything that’s happed to us in the last month. Tonight we just happened to play a team that was a little bit better.”
The bottom line: Although Steve Nash isn’t getting any younger, and Amare’s future is uncertain, there’s no reason to believe the Suns are going straight downhill from here. The development of some of their younger players, most notably Goran Dragic, offers much hope for the future.
Bottom Line Deux: So the cognoscenti are right after all. But lest they get too carried away, these are the same guys who back in October said the Suns wouldn’t even make the playoff. (That part MOI got right, too).