The Suns have gone from a bright light of basketball goodness to a black hole of playoff collapse in the span of a week.
So what can save the Suns now that their playoff elimination feels inevitable to many?
Let’s start with this: Understand how lucky you are to get another crack at the Bucks.
Most teams that suffer a loss, punctuated by an all time play like Jrue Holiday’s steal turned alley oop, don’t get a chance at redemption.
Those were Game 7 plays in a Game 7 environment but it was actually Game 5.
The Suns don't have to wait a full offseason, regular season and another postseason to get their chance at revenge against the Bucks. They don't have to wait a full year to satisfy that itch. The Suns have to wait two days before they can right their wrongs.
So how do the Suns do it? How do they come back from the dead?
Sometimes the simplest answer is the hardest to actually do: they have to get back to playing Suns basketball.
What drove the Suns at their core this season was a team that moved the ball, played unselfish and had every player accepting and thriving in their role. No one was asked to do too much and no one was asked to do too little.
Saturday, we saw the Suns of old in the first quarter. And then it disappeared. Jae Crowder set the FootPrint Center on fire with 8 first quarter points. He scored his 9th and 10th points with 7:35 to go in the 2nd quarter...AND DID NOT ATTEMPT ANOTHER SHOT ALL GAME.
Mikal Bridges scored a bucket with 3:15 left in the first quarter and attempted one more shot until the 4th quarter.
That can’t happen again. The Suns have to get in the paint, move the ball and take open shots. Sure, the Bucks defense has done a good job of complicating things for Phoenix but this is still a team that has the shooters to stretch a defense, if they are willing to use them.
Some of that is Devin Booker playing with this head up. Some of that is Chris Paul taking control of a Suns team sliding off the road. Some of that is role players making plays when they get the chance to do so.
A lot of that is wanting it more.
I can’t tell you how many people tweeted, DM’d or texted me that the Suns simply don’t want it as badly as the Bucks. That’s just not acceptable in the NBA Finals.
This opportunity may never come again. The Suns are approaching this series, naturally so given their relative youth and inexperience, like a teenager. Most teenagers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their own mortality or the fragility of life with their decisions because they think they’re going to live forever. The Bucks are approaching this series like a grizzled, middle aged team worn down by missed chances caused by previous playoff failures. The Suns aren’t fully aware of the moment they are in, the Bucks are acutely aware of the moment they are in.
If the Suns are going to win Game 6 and have a chance to win the series, they need to play Suns basketball with the Bucks level of urgency.
It’s a fairly simple formula but as the Suns finally know, nothing is easy in the NBA Finals.