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Suns swept by Timberwolves: What went wrong for Phoenix in NBA Playoffs?

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The Suns and their star trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal can start planning early vacations.

In shocking fashion, Phoenix has been swept out of the 2024 NBA Playoffs by Minnesota. The No. 6 seed Suns looked completely outmatched by the No. 3 seed Timberwolves,who won all four games by an average margin of 15.5 points.

When the Suns drew the Timberwolves, many pointed to the first-round matchup as a popular upset pick. Despite holding the lower seed, the Suns opened as favorites to win the series, according to BetMGM. Phoenix won all three of its regular-season matchups with Minnesota, but it quickly found out the playoffs are a different beast.

The Timberwolves turned up the defensive intensity to a level that the Suns’ star trio couldn’t overcome. Phoenix didn’t have a defensive stopper to contain superstar guard Anthony Edwards and its lack of depth was glaring the entire series.

Now, the Suns’ front office has to take a long look in the mirror to figure out how they will make this roster work. Head coach Frank Vogel is already reportedly on the hot seat, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported ahead of the final loss Sunday.

What went wrong for Phoenix in the playoffs? The Sporting News takes a closer look below.

When the Suns swept the regular season series against the Timberwolves, they scored 125 points or more in two of the three matchups. In their first-round playoff series against Minnesota, Phoenix failed to score more than 100 pointstwice.

The Suns’ 103.5 offensive rating was the third-worst of any playoff team. That would have been the worst offensive rating in the NBA by over three full points per 100 possessions in the 2023-24 regular season.

Plenty of credit goes to Minnesota’s defense, which has been the best in the NBA all season. It is anchored by Defensive Player of the Year favorite Rudy Gobert, but he has plenty of help on the perimeter.

Edwards has proved he’s one of the best two-way players in the league when he’s locked in defensively. Jaden McDaniels and Nickeil Alexander-Walker had Phoenix’s stars in jail for most of the series.

MORE: Minnesota’s Alexander-Walker is NBA’s most underrated defender

Devin Booker averaged just 20.3 points per game heading into Game 4 before he finally broke through and exploded for 49 points. McDaniels and Alexander-Walker never let him get into a rhythm early in the series, as the superstar guard looked as frustrated as he’s ever through the first three games. If he did get past their clamps on the perimeter, Gobert was waiting in the paint to turn him away.

The same goes for Beal, who averaged just 16.5 points per game for the series and had more turnovers (6) and personal fouls (6) than made field goals (4) in the elimination game.

And even though Durant posted an efficient 26.8 points per game, that ends as the third-lowest playoff scoring average of his career.

Edwards had a viral quote before the start of the series: “They have KD, but we have Jaden McDaniels.” That may have seemed like irrational confidence in his teammate at first, but McDaniels proved it to be a prophecy.

On the other end of the floor, the Suns had no one to stop Edwards. The 22-year-old’s superstar verified his arrival, completely taking over to lead the Timberwolves to a sweep.

Vogel gave Beal the Edwards assignment but it quickly became clear that wouldn’t work. Booker, Durant and Royce O’Neale all took turns on him, too, but no one had much success.

Beyond those four, Phoenix had no other viable options.

In Game 1, Edwards had a third-quarter eruption that turned a close contest into a blowout. Durant tried to step up as the stopper but couldn’t disrupt Edwards, who let his former idol hear it as he buried shot after shot.

In Game 3, Edwards poured in 36 points on 23 shots. He scored 20 in the second half to, again, turn a tight game into a decisive victory.

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