Suns complete perfect bubble season, but come just short of playoffs

Jason Owens
·3 min read

The Phoenix Suns completed their perfect NBA bubble season on Thursday, cruising to a 128-102 win over the shorthanded Dallas Mavericks. It just wasn’t enough for the playoffs.

As the Suns played the Mavericks across the NBA’s Disney World campus, the Grizzlies rolled to a 119-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks who were playing with no stakes and without a suspended Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The win clinched the No. 9 position in the Western Conference for Memphis. Hours later, the Portland Trail Blazers came out on top in a thriller against the Brooklyn Nets to put the final nail in the Suns’ coffin. The team’s reaction was succinct:

Both the Grizzlies and Suns finished at 34-49, but the Grizzlies owned the tiebreaker thanks to a 3-1 record against the team in the regular season. So even though the Suns were the story of the seeding games with their 8-0 record, the story stopped there thanks to the Grizzlies’ sizable advantage entering the bubble.

The Blazers will now face the Grizzlies for the right to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. As the holder of the No. 8 position, the Blazers will only have to win one game in the play-in series, while the Grizzlies will have to post back-to-back wins.

Ja Morant passes the ball.
Ja Morant's Grizzlies are still alive for the playoffs. (AP Photo/Mike Ehrmann, Pool)

Thursday’s wins by the Suns and Grizzlies also spelled the end for the San Antonio Spurs, who were eliminated from the playoffs moments before their season finale against the Utah Jazz. That elimination ends a 22-season playoff streak for the Spurs that goes back to its drafting of Tim Duncan.

Big run by Suns

Thursday concludes a remarkable run by the Suns, who had a less than 1 percent chance of making the playoffs after arriving to the NBA campus as the No. 13 seed in the West with a 26-39 record. Led by the continued emergence of All-Star Devin Booker, the Suns finish the seeding portion of bubble play with an 8-0 record. Booker led the Suns again against Dallas, finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Devin Booker with the ball.
Devin Booker's Suns need a loss from the Trail Blazers to stay alive for the playoffs. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

The Grizzlies had the inside track to the No. 8 seed that they held when bubble play started. Hobbled in part by the loss of injured forward Jaren Jackson Jr., they limped to a 2-6 finish. But thanks to their superior record prior to bubble play, they’re still alive for the playoffs. Presumptive Rookie of the Year Ja Morant finished with his second career triple-double against the Bucks with 12 points, 10 assists and a career-high 13 rebounds.

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