Suns return to court as NBA champions in Game 5 win over Mavs


PHOENIX — Surrounded by danger and shrouded in doubt, the Suns went to the locker room at halftime as one of the most confusing teams in the playoffs.

They returned to the court as NBA champions.

Order has been restored. The faith was renewed. For the third time in the last two seasons, the Suns won in a decisive fifth game.

“It was defense tonight,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “When we get saves like that and we’re able to get out in transition, it keeps us going. It gets the crowd moving. And I firmly believe that defense travels. It’s the only thing you can do in any gym.

The dominating performance in the second half was heartwarming, like recognition from an old friend. The Suns seemed to regain their gravity and spirit in a lopsided 110-80 win. And so did the crowd, where home-court advantage finally reached the decibel level that marked last year’s title run, when a new generation of rabid Suns fans became the star of the tournament.

There were many unexpected potholes during the first half of this Revenge Tour. Hopefully this searing victory sets the Suns free, leading to miles of open road ahead of us.

“That Game 3 and 4 (in Dallas), it really bothered us a lot,” Suns star Chris Paul said.

After looking vulnerable and uncomfortable in Dallas, the Suns made major adjustments to their roster. Cam Payne was effectively benched. Devin Booker played backup point guard. Bismack Biyombo replaced JaVale McGee as the backup center. It worked.

The Suns survived a tough first half and an early onslaught from Dallas. They took care of the basketball, solving turnover issues that plagued them on the road. They received 38 points from their reserves. And they finally ignited a crowd of powder kegs eager to rock the playing field.

During the first half, it was clear that there was a different energy inside the Footprint Center. But the Suns failed to capitalize on most of the combustible, dynamic moments. Most egregious was a dazed Deandre Ayton squandering the chance for a thunderous dunk, the kind of daffy moment that drives fans crazy.

But Ayton came out with a different vibe in the second half. He played with a new aggressiveness. He converted a pair of offensive rebounds, exploiting a size advantage the Mavericks can’t counter.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks cooled considerably in Game 5, missing 24 of 32 shots from beyond the three-point line and finishing with just nine team assists. Mikal Bridges provided his typical buffet of defensive magic. And Booker did the rest, scoring 28 points in 35 minutes.

Before Game 5, former Suns great Charles Barkley called Ayton and Booker, saying it was time to shine, to take some of the load off Paul’s shoulders. Consider it another of the Suns’ small wins on Tuesday.

“Book has a shooting ability that’s unique to very few people,” Williams said.

Experience was one of the many things the Suns gained from losing their bid for a championship in 2021. It was their fifth Game 5 as a group since Paul arrived two seasons ago. . One of those losses was a chance to clinch a home playoff series against the Clippers. The other cost them an NBA championship against the Bucks. They were very aware of the implications and consequences of Tuesday’s game in downtown Phoenix.

With the win, the Suns did a solid for Williams. Their beloved servant leader earned NBA Coach of the Year honors ahead of Game 5, just when this Western Conference semifinal seemed to slip out of their collective grasp. The juxtaposition was perilous.

If the Suns had lost this game, they would be in imminent danger, facing a playoff game on the road. And that price would start to feel hollow, mocked and ridiculed by Suns critics.

Williams didn’t deserve this. He deserved exactly what he received in Game 5, a team that entered with “increased respect and appropriate fear” of the Mavericks. And they responded accordingly.

Once again it is safe to exhale on Planet Orange. The Suns looked alike. And now it’s time to get this team and this show back on the road, putting another opponent in the rearview mirror.

Contact Bickley at [email protected] Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Arizona’s sports station 98.7 FM.


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