Suns WCF history -- a brief summary

elindholm

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Old-timers know all of this, but others may not, so...

This will be the Suns' 10th trip to the Western Conference Finals. They've advanced in 2 of their previous 9 attempts. Here's how each one went down:

1976
This was the rookie season for Alvan Adams and Ricky Sobers, who joined Dick Van Arsdale, Paul Westphal, Curtis Perry, and Garfield Heard on a young franchise that had previously been in only a single playoff series. The Suns finished at a modest 42-40, but they beat Seattle 4-2 in their first-round matchup, then upset the top-seeded Warriors by winning Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road. Adams, the Rookie of the Year, had 18 points and 20 rebounds in the decisive game. They went on to lose to the Celtics in six games, including the famous triple-overtime Game 5 in Boston, often referred to as the greatest game in NBA history.

1979
The team was led by Westphal, Adams, third-year player Walter Davis, and Truck Robinson, who was acquired in a mid-season trade. They set a franchise record by going 50-32, and defeated Portland and the Kansas City Kings in the first two rounds. But they fell in the WCF to the top-seeded Sonics, losing Game 6 at home by a single point and Game 7 on the road by the tight score of 114-110. The Sonics went on to win the title over the Washington Bullets.

1984
Westphal, Davis, and Adams were still together, now in their eighth season as Suns teammates. Other leaders of the 1983-84 squad were Maurice Lucas and Larry Nance. The Suns, at 41-41, finished 6th in the Western Conference, but surprised 3rd-seeded Portland in the first round and 2nd-seeded Utah after that. In the WCF, they dropped the first two games on the road to the Lakers and ended up losing in six. The Lakers lost to the Celtics in the Finals.

1989
After going 28-54 the previous year, the Suns vaulted to a 55-27 record behind Tom Chambers, who had been signed over the summer as a free agent; Kevin Johnson, who was in his first full year in Phoenix after having been acquired in a trade of Larry Nance; rising star Jeff Hornacek; and bench scorer Eddie Johnson, who won the Sixth Man of the Year. This was also fan favorite Dan Majerle’s rookie season. The Suns blitzed through Denver 3-0 and Golden State 4-1 before getting swept by the Lakers. The Lakers’ attempt to three-peat was turned away by the Pistons in the Finals.

1990
The Suns’ 54-28 record was good for only 5th in the Western Conference, but they beat the Jazz in the first round and upset the 63-19 Lakers, four games to one, in the conference semifinals, to reach the WCF for the second straight year. Phoenix lost the first two games in Portland by a combined 3 points, then evened the series with two comfortable wins at home. After losing Game 5, the Suns’ hopes of extending the series were dashed when Kevin Johnson suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter of Game 6 and could not return. The Blazers lost in the Finals to the defending champion Pistons.

1993
Hornacek and two other rotation players were traded for Charles Barkley in the off-season; Barkley would win the MVP. Paul Westphal was installed as the new coach and won Coach of the Year. Majerle became more of a scoring threat and both Chambers and Johnson continued to contribute, although Johnson was limited by injuries. Danny Ainge, another off-season acquisition, attempted to give Phoenix a credible defensive presence. The Suns led the league with a 62-20 record, but dropped the first two games at home to the 8th-seeded Lakers before winning three straight elimination games. They beat the Spurs in six and advanced to the Finals behind Barkley’s 44 points and 24 rebounds in Game 7 against the Sonics. As everyone knows, the Suns lost to the Bulls in six on John Paxson’s three-pointer with four seconds to play.

2005
Once again, the Suns made a huge improvement over the previous season, this time turning a 29-53 record into 62-20. The biggest new addition was Steve Nash, who won the MVP; new head coach Mike D’Antoni won Coach of the Year. The Suns were also led by Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, who, along with Nash, were named to the All-Star team. The top-seeded Suns swept Memphis in the first round and handled the Mavericks in six, but in Game 2 of the Dallas series lost emerging star Joe Johnson to a fractured orbital bone for the rest of the playoffs. The Suns were defeated in five games by the 2nd-seeded Spurs, who won the first two games in Phoenix and never looked back. San Antonio won the title over the defending champion Pistons.

2006
Stoudemire underwent microfracture surgery shortly before the start of the season, and ended up appearing in only three games the entire year. Nash (who won the MVP again) and Marion got help from Boris Diaw, who had been acquired in a sign-and-trade for Joe Johnson and won Most Improved Player, and free-agent additions Raja Bell and Kurt Thomas, who was lost to injury in February. The Suns claimed the West’s third-best record at 54-28, 9 games behind the Spurs and 6 behind the Mavericks. The Spurs and Mavericks ended up playing each other in the second round because they were in the same division, with Dallas winning Game 7 in overtime on the road. The Suns beat the Lakers and Clippers before falling to Dallas in six games, in spite of winning Game 1 on the road. Dallas went on to lose to the Heat.

2010
Nash and Stoudemire were again the core of the team, with other key contributors including Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, and new addition Channing Frye. The Suns earned the third seed with a 54-28 record and beat Portland in six before squaring off against their long-time nemesis, the Spurs. The Suns shocked the Spurs with a sweep, behind big performances from Nash, Stoudemire, and reserve guard Goran Dragic. The Suns lost to the top-seeded Lakers in six games and the Lakers would go on to beat the Celtics.
 
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GatorAZ

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Raja also missed games 2-3 vs Dallas in 06’. Suns lost both games and were playing 6 guys. We were basically playing 6 guys.
 

Bobster

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The 1979 loss was a heartbreaker for me. Everybody knew the winner of that series would win the Championship Series because Washington was so beaten up.
 

elindholm

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The 1979 loss was a heartbreaker for me. Everybody knew the winner of that series would win the Championship Series because Washington was so beaten up.

Some of the Suns' most painful playoff losses were in earlier rounds: against the Kings in 1981, the Rockets in 1994 and '95, and of course the Spurs in 2007.
 

JCSunsfan

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Best thing about the 1990 series win over the Lakers was Pat Riley’s Laker career ended with a loss to the Suns.
 

Dr. Jones

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I feel sick...... 93 and 05 will haunt me until I die.

good recap. Wished you would have mentioned the Horry hip check like you did Joe's orbital bone.
 

lorenzotexan

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Great recap, definitely learned a couple things I didn't know before 1993 time frame. some bad injuries and suspensions kept you all from making the finals(and likely winning it all) during the Nash era. I know it's a bit off topic because it was the second round, but the Robert Horry hip check was trash and Stoudemire should have never been suspended for reacting in the way he did and calming himself very quickly. Daniel Stern was on his hall monitor duty during that time. He also suspended mavs' Jerry Stackhouse in the finals for a flagrant foul on Shaq, of all people, who in a prior match just about broke stackhouse's nose on a regular foul. I still feel those petty suspensions hurt the mavs and suns chances of winning, and favored teams that were not as skilled for me. not to take anything away from the heat and spurs because they had a few world class players at the time, but they definitely got away with over the top physical play and I don't feel the games were always called evenly.

Ok enough whining on my part. I'm all in for the Suns. I hop you guys will be in the Finals again and there's no reason to think why you cannot win it, but either way incredible start so far.
 
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ajcardfan

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The 1979 loss was a heartbreaker for me. Everybody knew the winner of that series would win the Championship Series because Washington was so beaten up.

Yep. That was the best shot we ever had at a title. Better even than playing the Bulls and Celtics in our NBA Finals appearances. IMO.

That loss in game 6 at home on Mother's Day was hard to take, the game 7 loss harder. The Bullets were just toast before the Finals started that year and everyone knew it.
 

TucsonDevil

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Great Stuff @elindholm !!!

I don't remember much about the Suns until 1980 or 1981, DJ was fairly new on the team and I was about 7 or 8 years old. The two most memorable WCFs for me were 1984 and 1990.

1984 had an amazing game 5 in LA, in which the starting 5 of the Suns (Walter D, Kyle Macy, Lucas, Nance and James Edwards) all scored 20+ and they never trailed. The Suns were down 3-1 at the time, but after that game it felt like we could overcome... I had that game taped (Beta tape) and rewatched it all summer long. That was my favorite Suns team of all time.

1990 was the most absolute gut punch of all time. The Trailblazers had wholly unlikeable characters like Duckworth, Cliff Robertson, Terry Porter, and Kersey - and to watch them celebrate on our court was disgusting.
 
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