Despite having to suffer through one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns did still have several memorable games through their 82-game schedule.
Perhaps the team had a lot of weaknesses, but there were occasionally some very exciting nights. Sometimes an individual player would take control of the game for a career game, and in other cases the team would grind out a tough win against a great opponent or bitter rival.
It is these games that remind you why it is so special to be a Phoenix Suns fan. The team won't be rewarding fans with any 60-win seasons in the next couple years, but you can count on the fact that they will continue to fight hard every single night, even when times are tough and morale is low.
And occasionally, the team's effort will show, and the Suns may shock you with a surprising win, or at the very least a close and enthralling matchup.
Here are just five games of the Suns' season where they persevered (or came close) and gave fans a memorable evening.
The Suns actually lost this game 102-100 to Brooklyn, and it was definitely one of the most heartbreaking losses of the season.
First of all, the Suns never would have been in this game without Goran Dragic. Dragic had a truly fantastic night, shooting 10-for-19 from the field with 31 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists to just barely miss out on what would have been his second career triple-double.
The Suns went into the second half trailing by 12 points, but they came back with a resurgent third quarter, outscoring Brooklyn 33-20 after Wesley Johnson knocked down four consecutive threes in the last two minutes of the quarter.
The Suns fought hard in the fourth quarter to try and come back, and they had an opportunity to send the game into overtime too. Goran Dragic was sent to the line with three seconds left and the Suns down 102-99, so he was forced to intentionally miss the second free throw after converting on the first.
Hamed Haddadi grabbed the offensive rebound, but his missed putback layup ended the game.
Dragic vs. Deron Williams (20 points, 11 assists) was the story of the night, but the Suns could not have stayed competitive without the help of others as well. P.J Tucker put up 14 points and eight rebounds, Wesley Johnson scored 21 points (17 in the third quarter) and Markieff Morris grabbed 15 boards despite a poor shooting night.
Losses aren't generally considered special, but this was a rare occasion in which multiple players stepped up and the Suns almost pulled off the surprising comeback win. Plus, Goran Dragic had a fantastic night, and his great production and leadership was a great example of his evolution in the past few years from role player to being considered the point guard of the future.
This game had everything from a fascinating comeback win to overtime and even a buzzer beater.
The Suns were outscored 31-23 in the first quarter, and they did little to conquer that deficit in the second.
After a 19-6 run for the Hornets to start the second half, Phoenix was down 72-53 and it looked hopeless. But much to the surprise of everyone, the Suns were able to storm back in the second half—led by Goran Dragic, P.J Tucker and Jermaine O'Neal—and they even took the lead late in the fourth until the Hornets tied the game at 103 apiece to send it into overtime.
The Suns outscored New Orleans 8-5 in overtime, thus capping a 111-108 win. Goran Dragic put up 20 points, eight assists and three steals. Markieff Morris scored 23 points, a career high. Jermaine O'Neal gave Phoenix 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, and P.J Tucker put up 15 points, seven rebounds and even beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter with a great three-point shot.
Dragic had a great game, but what gave the Suns the win here was some quality production from unexpected sources. Markieff really stepped up, and Luis Scola, P.J Tucker and Jermaine O'Neal were all huge contributors off the bench. Without their help, there is no doubt that the game would have gone to the Hornets, and the Suns would have just laid down and given up back in the third quarter when all looked lost.
For the Suns, winning the game by itself was a great feat this season. However, winning against the Los Angeles Lakers is always an even greater feeling for both fans and players.
This was also the game where Steve Nash returned to Phoenix, and he was given a warm reception as well as his own tribute video while the fans cheered.
But when it was time to play ball, the Suns would have no mercy on their former player and division rival.
After being outscored 32-22 in the third quarter, Phoenix was down by 10 points. But then, in the fourth quarter, a man by the name of Michael Beasley caught fire.
Beasley had 27 points, six rebounds and five steals on 12-of-20 shooting off the bench in what was probably his greatest game of the season. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead basket with 43.8 seconds left.
Meanwhile, Shannon Brown and P.J Tucker held Kobe Bryant to 2-of-7 shooting with zero assists in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers were also without Dwight Howard at the end of the game after he aggravated his right torn labrum in the third. World Peace, Nash, Gasol and Jamison put together solid outings, but none were able to step up and take the win for L.A. in the fourth.
Instead, Phoenix rallied from a 13-point deficit with 10 minutes to and ultimately took the win 92-86.
The Suns did not play particularly exciting basketball in this game, as the final score stood just 82-80. However, that night will always be remembered for Goran Dragic's clutch game winner.
With 0.5 seconds left, Goran Dragic spun around Marc Gasol on the baseline to sink a left-handed hook shot as the Suns snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Rudy Gay had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, and he tied the game on a turnaround jumper with 46.8 seconds left. However, his attempt to take the lead for Memphis missed, and the Suns were able to set up their game-winning play.
Zach Randolph also had a good game with 18 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis. But he had just had a 38-point, 22-rebound game against the Suns several days earlier, and he wasn't able to do the same amount of damage in this one.
Dragic had a great shot to end the game, but nobody really stepped up and had a fantastic individual performance for the Suns. Dragic had 12 points and eight assists, Shannon Brown had 15 points and seven rebounds and Jared Dudley had 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
But this game wasn't about individual performances. The Suns had several players contribute in a beneficial way, and that all-around team play gave Phoenix the memorable win.
The San Antonio Spurs are not a team that generally loses at home. Their 35-6 home record this season can attest to that. And they are especially not a team that should be losing to the lowly Suns at home.
But on this night, that is exactly what happened.
The Spurs had a 10 point lead going into the fourth quarter—and they outscored Phoenix in each of the first three periods—but then in the fourth quarter, veteran center Jermaine O'Neal stepped up, and many people had to check their calendars to make sure that it wasn't 2004.
O'Neal looked like the All-Star center who used to play for the Pacers in the mid-2000s. He had 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and dominated inside as the Suns outscored San Antonio 18-4 in the paint during the fourth.
But even with O'Neal's great performance, a win seemed incredibly unlikely after Tim Duncan gave the Spurs a four-point lead with 11.9 seconds left. Goran Dragic quickly made the basket on the other end, but then the Suns had to send Manu Ginobili to the line with a score of 97-99 and hope he would miss a free throw.
Ginobili missed the second shot with 3.7 seconds left, and again Jermaine O'Neal came up big. The big man grabbed the rebound and made the pinpoint pass all the way down the court to Wesley Johnson, who pulled up from behind the free-throw line and sank the three-pointer at the buzzer.
From there, the Spurs went cold. They missed all 10 field-goal attempts in overtime, and it only took five points from the Suns to take the win 105-101.
Goran Dragic had 13 points and 13 assists while Luis Scola had 15 points, but most importantly Jermaine O'Neal had 22 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks to prove that he could still be a valuable asset to any team in the NBA.