The Nuggets went 16-4 in the 2023 playoffs on their way to the first title in franchise history. The Suns gave them two of those losses, making them the only team to beat Denver twice this postseason.
If the Suns had any heat in them at all, the celebration that’s overtaking Denver could be happening in Phoenix.
Instead, the Suns quit.
Devin Booker tried to play through an injury in Game 6 of the second round, but he looked terrible. Deandre Ayton sat out with a rib injury that made people wonder whether he was covering for a lack of heart. And Kevin Durant only made one more shot than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Defensively, the Suns roster seemed to trade in their purple and orange jerseys for white flags.
Imagine if they had any fight.
This could have been Phoenix’s first NBA title.
Forget that the Suns didn’t have enough time to gel after the trade for Durant.
Forget that Chris Paul was hurt.
And forget the reality that this Nuggets core has been together for years.
Phoenix was right there.
No one played the Nuggets tougher this postseason — except for when it mattered most.
Suns fans can only hope that this is burning Booker, Ayton and Durant more than anyone and that they return next season with a renewed intensity that comes from knowing they had the best chance of knocking off Denver.
For me, this means the Suns need to do everything they can to keep Paul — and then to stash him in a vat of ice until the All-Star break.
It’s not likely that they’ll be able to convince Paul to stay, given the constraints of the salary cap, but they’ve got to try.
With Paul, the Suns were 2-2 against the Nuggets.
Without him, the squad gave up and suffered a loss so bad that it got coach Monty Williams fired.
The Suns didn’t have any heat.
Turns out the Heat didn’t have enough stars.
Either way, congratulations to the Denver Nuggets, especially to Nikola Jokic, who silenced every critic who ever doubted his game, including the guy typing these words.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: No one played the Denver Nuggets tougher than the Phoenix Suns
Source: Yahoo Sports