The Phoenix Suns are in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, a huge accomplishment for a franchise that has waited a long time to return to the postseason. They’ve now achieved something even bigger – an appearance in the NBA Finals, at a minimum – but when did the Suns last make the playoffs?
The Suns last went to the playoffs in 2010; it had been 11 years since Phoenix got to experience postseason NBA basketball.
Let’s take a look back at the last time the Suns made the NBA Playoffs:
Suns Last Playoffs Appearance: 2009-10
The Suns went to the postseason every year from 2005 to 2008 but missed in 2009 as the first team out despite finishing second in the Pacific Division and holding a 46-36 regular season record. They didn’t stay out of the playoffs long, though, and they were right back in them one season later.
Amar’e Stoudemire was the team’s leading scorer in 2009-10, averaging 23.1 points per game to go along with his 8.9 rebounds per night. At age 35, Steve Nash was also a huge piece of the puzzle, averaging a double-double on 16.5 points and 11.0 assists per contest along with a 42.6 percent shooting clip from beyond the arc and 93.8 percent mark from the free-throw line. Jason Richardson (15.7 points, 5.1 rebounds per game), 37-year-old Grant Hill (11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game), and Channing Frye (11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers.
Alvin Gentry was the last Suns head coach to take them to the playoffs. The 2009-10 campaign was his first full season in charge of the team after Terry Porter was fired 51 games into the 2008-09 season and Gentry, an assistant with the Suns since 2004-05, was elevated to head coach. In 31 games as boss in 2009, his Suns went 18-13.
The Suns got off to a hot start, winning their first four games of the 2009-10 campaign. Two more four-game winning streaks in November propelled the team to a 14-3 record by the time the month ended.
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It was a colder December, and a 4-8 mark between the start of the month and Christmas dragging Phoenix’s record to 18-11 by Dec. 25. The Suns handled the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day, 124-93, behind double-figure scoring efforts from seven different players, including 26 from Stoudemire, but it wouldn’t be the turning point game the team would have wanted.
After trading some more wins and losses, Phoenix dropped four straight in January, and following an overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, 114-109, on Jan. 26, the team was 26-21. That would be the turning point Suns fans hoped Christmas was.
From then on, the Suns lost just seven more regular season games. Following the OT defeat to the Bobcats, Phoenix rattled off five wins in a row, then in March put together a 10-game winning streak that truly changed the course of its season. In all, the Suns went 23-7 from mid-February through the end of the regular season in mid-April.
With a 54-28 (.659) record, the Suns finished second in the Pacific Division three games behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Their regular season efforts were good for the No. 3 seed in the West, with the Lakers taking the conference’s top spot, the Dallas Mavericks standing at No. 2, and the Denver Nuggets earning the No. 4 seed. Phoenix faced No. 6 seed Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
First Round – Portland Trail Blazers
To start their last playoffs campaign, the Suns fell behind in the series in Game 1 as Portland went on a 14-7 run in the middle of the fourth quarter to create an insurmountable lead, giving the lower seed the early 1-0 series lead, 105-100. But the Suns responded in Game 2. Richardson and Hill combined for 49 points and the Suns shot 52.3 percent from the floor in a 119-90 handling of the Trail Blazers to even the series at 1-1.
Game 3 was the Jason Richardson show. He shot a ridiculous 13-of-19 from the field and 8-of-12 from deep, not to mention an 8-of-10 clip from the charity stripe, to put up 42 points that night. Nash chipped in 10 assists to accompany his 13 points for a double-double, the Suns won comfortably, 108-89, to go up 2-1 in the series.
But Portland wasn’t done. In Game 4, La Marcus Aldridge took over the game, scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Trail Blazers. Richardson was relatively quiet after his monster showing in Game 3, shooting just 6-of-16 from the floor, and Portland walked away with the series knotted at 2-2 following its 96-87 victory.
That would be the last win for Portland in the playoffs, though. A very balanced Suns attack in Game 5 that saw five players score 14 or more points, plus another double-double for Nash on 14 points and 10 dimes, put them over the top, 107-88, and in Game 6, the Trail Blazers ultimately couldn’t overcome a great first half from Phoenix that gave it a 12-point cushion at halftime. Portland tied the game at 76 midday through the fourth quarter, making a Game 7 a serious possibility until the Suns locked in, immediately launching an 8-0 run and holding on until the final buzzer, 99-90, to win the series, 4-2.
Western Conference Semifinals – San Antonio Spurs
The No. 7 seed San Antonio Spurs were fresh off a huge upset over Dallas, 4-2, in the first round. But their steam didn’t continue with them into the Western Conference Semifinals.
In Game 1, Manu Ginoboli and Tim Duncan combined for 47 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome insane nights from Nash (33 points, 10 assists, 13-of-19 from the floor), Stoudemire (23 points, 13 rebounds), and Richardson (27 points, 10-of-16 from the floor). The Spurs came back from a 10-point deficit at halftime and had the game tied for a good stretch of the third quarter, but a 12-2 run to finish the period for Phoenix was the eventual difference as the Suns took a 1-0 series lead, 111-102.
Six Suns scored in double figures in Game 2, including 26 combined points from Frye and Jared Dudley off the bench. Frye hit five triples in six attempts, with some of them coming at crucial times, including one midway through the fourth quarter to extend his team’s lead to five, 88-83. The contest was tight through the second and third quarters, but Phoenix slowly pulled away in the fourth after Frye’s three ball and won, 110-102, for the 2-0 series advantage.
Game 3’s unlikely hero was Goran Dragic, who scored a team-high 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting in not even 18 minutes of gameplay, including a perfect 5-of-5 mark from behind the arc. Duncan and Antonio McDyess both had double-doubles for the Spurs, but the Suns shot 15-of-26 (53.2 percent) from deep. San Antonio led for most of the game and commanded a 16-point advantage in the second quarter, but a Dragic layup early in the fourth gave Phoenix its first lead of the game, and a layup via Leandro Barbosa almost two minutes later created an advantage for the Suns they wouldn’t relinquish. Phoenix triumphed, 110-96, to make the series 3-0 in its favor.
Like in Game 3, San Antonio led to start the game, but Phoenix had taken a three-point advantage by halftime. The Spurs got the game tied multiple times in the second half but were never able to jump ahead. Stoudemire had 29 points and Nash had 20 points and nine assists as the Suns swept San Antonio, 4-0, with the 107-101 victory.
Western Conference Finals – Los Angeles Lakers
The last time the Suns made it this far in the playoffs was four years prior in 2006, the second of two-straight Western Conference Finals defeats to San Antonio and Dallas, respectively. This time, the much-hated Lakers stood in its way of a trip back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
The Lakers dominated the third and fourth quarters of Game 1 as Kobe Bryant went for 40 points and Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmer chipped in double-digit scoring efforts off the bench. Nash amassed yet another double-double on 13 points and 13 dimes, but it didn’t matter. LA took the first game of the series with relative ease, 128-107.
Game 2 went a bit differently, with the Lakers controlling the first half and the Suns making a run in the third to get the game tied at 90 heading into the fourth quarter. But Pau Gasol had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the game’s final 12 minutes, and the Suns made just three shots from the field as a team in the final period. The Lakers extended their series lead to 2-0 with a 124-122 victory.
With the series heading to Phoenix, the Suns regained their footing despite 36 points from Bryant and another 23 from Gasol. Stoudemire went for 42 points and 11 rebounds while Nash again lit up the box score with a double-double on 17 points and 15 assists. Robin Lopez also scored 20, and even though Phoenix shot a putrid 5-of-20 (25 percent) from beyond the arc, it also stifled the Lakers’ outside shooting (28.1 percent). With LA holding a slim 90-89 lead with more than eight minutes to play in the game, the Suns turned on the jets, closing out the contest on a 29-19 run that resulted in a 118-109 triumph and a 2-1 series record.
Another big fourth quarter in Game 4 helped Phoenix even the series. The game was tied at 87 early in the final period, but nine different Suns players got on the scoreboard in the contest’s last 12 minutes, including seven points via Barbosa, half of his game total. Bryant had 38 points and 10 assists on the night, but the balanced Suns attack featured six players scoring in double figures. The Suns won, 115-106, to even the series at 2-2.
Phoenix fans probably don’t want to remember Game 5. The Lakers held a 73-56 advantage midway through the third quarter and looked like they were walking to a series lead, but the Suns fought back. Slowly, Phoenix chipped away at the league, chopping the deficit to six at the end of the quarter and eventually tying the game at 101 with 3.5 seconds to play from a Richardson triple. But Metta World Peace had the answer on the ensuring Lakers possession, getting the offensive rebound off a Bryant miss and putting in a layup with 0.8 seconds to go to give his team the two-point lead. LA won, 103-101, and took a 3-2 series advantage.
In Game 6, the game remained tight to start until LA opened up a little space for itself in the second and third quarters, eventually holding a 91-74 lead going into the fourth. Phoenix fought back in the final 12 minutes, though, closing the gap to within five at multiple points in the last quarter and knocking the margin to three with 2:19 to go after a Nash layup. But Bryant was strong in the final period, scoring 11 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, and the Suns couldn’t overcome it. World Peace also scored 25 while Stoudemire had 27 and Nash had 21 in losing efforts. The Lakers won the game, 111-103, and the series, 4-2, to head back to the NBA Finals.