PHOENIX — For the second straight season, the Phoenix Suns were eliminated from home in embarrassing fashion.
Phoenix’s 125-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 on Thursday night in the Western Conference semifinals was similar to Game 7’s dominance of the Dallas Mavericks at the Footprint Center in the same round.
The deficit at halftime — 30 points — was the same. So did Suns fans, many of whom booed loudly at halftime and headed for the exits with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.
“It sucked,” said Kevin Durant, whose arrival in a midseason trade made the Suns the favorite bet to win the West. “Bad feeling. Embarrassing.”
Devin Booker left the arena without speaking to the media, a highly unusual move for the face of the Suns franchise.
Booker averaged 33.7 points per game this postseason but the performance was not good as the Suns were eliminated. He scored 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, a close facsimile of his off night in last year’s elimination loss to the Mavs (11 points, 3-of-14 shooting).
The Suns, who lost starters Chris Paul (groin) and Deandre Ayton (ribs), became the third team in NBA history to be eliminated from the playoffs in consecutive seasons with 25-plus-point losses, according to the ESPN Stats & Information research.
Suns coach Monty Williams acknowledged it was a “bad feeling” to be eliminated by blowouts in consecutive years but downplayed the correlation between the separate losses.
“I mean, it’s two different groups,” Williams said. “Last year’s team is completely different than this year’s team. Last year’s team was more of a ball-movement, body-movement team. This year is more pick-and-roll oriented and iso oriented, so it’s two everyone’s situation is different.. That’s something we have to look at to see what kind of combination of players we need to fit the style of play.
Durant, who has high praise for two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the top-seeded Nuggets, struggled with his standards in the series. He averaged 29.5 points per game but only shot 45.3% from the floor and 22.2% from 3-point range, finishing by scoring 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting in Game 6 .
Durant, who was limited to just eight regular-season games with the Suns due to injury, said he didn’t want to “provide context” that could be taken as an excuse.
“We just got to be better next year,” said Durant. “It’s hard right now to see what the future holds for our team, but we’ve got a good foundation, a good infrastructure. We can build and continue from it and learn from it and get better from it. -heat and the offseason, we’ll figure it out a little more.”