The Phoenix Suns notched another win when they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, improving their record in the bubble to 7-0 (33-39 overall), and putting further in the mix for a crack at the Western Conference playoffs as we continue down the stretch.
Leading the way has been Suns’ superstar Devin Booker, who may have been the most impressive player in the bubble had it not been for the performance of Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard.
Even if the Suns don’t land a spot in the playoffs, Booker believes that what the team has done in the bubble will be something the team can build on for years to come.
“That’s life, man,” Booker said of the possibility that a perfect 8-0 record may not be enough to push them into the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell.
“We’re controlling what we can control. That’s the eight games that we play in. So I’m proud of my guys regardless. We came in here with the right mindset, and it could have been different. People could have been frustrated, coming off of a four-month hiatus to straight to basketball and leaving your family.
“But we came in, we locked in, and made the sacrifices that we need to make, so I don’t think there’s going to be any sad faces around here, whether we leave here in the playoffs or not. We’ve put the work in and we’ve grown as a team. We’ve took tremendous strides that I think will build for us for continuing years to come.”
Suns coach Monty Williams is in his first year at the helm, and sees the team’s intense focus and attitude recently, and the young team now has a legitimate shot at reaching their goal.
“We can finally look at it,” Williams said of the potential playoff possibilities. “It’s our next step. We know that we’re not totally in control of our fate, but we put ourselves in a good position. Nobody would have guessed the Phoenix Suns would be in this position before all of this started. And our guys have just battled and executed and made the plays necessary to give us a chance. I’m always in the mindset of the next right thing. And for us, it’s going to be how we approach tomorrow — whether it’s film or rest and recovery, but we do have it in our sights.”
Now Phoenix will play the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, in the final game of their bubble play, with a lot on the line. Those are the games that Booker strives to play in.
“These are the games I’ve been waiting to be in and play in,” Booker said after scoring 35 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out seven assists in the latest win. “I know it’s a different format than what it’d be usually, but we control the energy, we can feel the hype for the game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Even with a win, the Suns still may not have enough to make the playoffs, a reality that their coach has certainly thought about.
“It’s crossed my mind,” Williams said. “I’m human just like everybody else. You look at the records, you look at the scenarios, and then once I do that too long, I get focused on the next thing that we have to do. It kind of gets me back a better mindset, because you can play mental gymnastics with yourself, and that’s not always healthy. But we’re all competitors; I’ve thought about a lot of scenarios.”
“We’re here to win” Suns’ swingman Mikal Bridges said.
“You see us the past 70 games, we’re here to win. This is the biggest one. Let’s see if we can stay with what we’ve been doing, stay out there with the same mentality and don’t get selfish and keep playing for each other.”
“We’re treating this as just another game,” Booker said. “We didn’t come in saying we wanted to win eight in a row. We just wanted to win one game, eight times. So we’re keeping it that way, and we’re excited for this matchup.”