With one game remaining, the story of the NBA bubble has yet to let up.
The Phoenix Suns, an afterthought when bubble teams were announced, cruised past the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, 130-117 to improve to 7-0 at the NBA’s Disney World campus. They did so with another huge game from breakout superstar Devin Booker.
Booker posted 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for his third-straight 35-point effort and his fourth in five games. With the Memphis Grizzlies’ loss to the Boston Celtics just minutes later, the Suns found themselves in a four-way tie for eighth place in the West at 33-39.
Will the Suns make the playoffs?
It’s a massive jump from their standing six games back of the playoffs with eight games left when bubble play started.
It also guarantees nothing. The battle royale for the West’s final playoff spot is still very much on with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs still standing alongside the Suns and the Grizzlies in the fight.
The Suns weren’t supposed to still be here at this point. And even if they don’t make the playoffs, their run in the bubble warrants appreciation.
“That's life, man,” Booker told reporters after the game. “We're controlling what we can control and that's the eight games they gave us. ... I don't think there's going to be any sad faces around here, whether we make the playoffs or not.”
Devin Booker’s new gear
Booker, 23, appeared to take a leap from mere first-time All-Star to certified NBA superstar during the NBA’s COVID-19 hiatus. He’s scored 27, 30, 35, 20, 35, 35, and 35 points in Phoenix’s seven wins, leading the Suns in scoring in six of those games. He’s done so while averaging 6.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds and hitting a game-winning buzzer-beater over two of the league’s best defenders.
And it’s not just Booker. The whole offense is humming to an average of 121.4 points per game in the bubble with Deandre Ayton, rookie Cam Johnson, Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and Mikal Bridges taking turns as Booker’s lead supporting character.
The Suns have one game remaining on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks. A win there would result in a perfect bubble record and ensure nothing in terms of the playoffs. That’s where a 26-39 start to the season leaves them.
Playoffs or not, the Suns will have something to build from and reason for optimism heading into next season.
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