Since the Phoenix Suns began playing in the NBA as an expansion team in 1968, the franchise has made 30 trips to the NBA playoffs. Including the recent run by Devin Booker & Co., the Suns have reached the Western Conference Finals on 10 occasions, but have only made two appearances in the NBA Finals, neither of which resulted in a championship.
The Phoenix Suns lost the 1976 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics
The Phoenix Suns made their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals following the 1975-76 season, their eighth in the NBA. After going 42-40 in the regular season, good enough for a No. 3 seed in the West, the Suns knocked off the second-seeded Seattle Supersonics in six games in the conference semifinals. Phoenix then upset the top-seeded Golden State Warriors in the conference finals, setting up an NBA Finals showdown with the Boston Celtics.
The No. 1 seed in the East, the Celtics, who still had the core of their title-winning team from two years earlier, were the heavy favorite in the series and proved why with two easy wins in Boston to open the 1976 NBA Finals. But the Suns fought back, evening the series with wins in games three and four in Phoenix.
Game 5 in Boston was an instant classic and is still seen by many as the greatest NBA Finals game in history, a game that took three overtimes to decide. In the end, the Celtics walked away with a two-point victory and then closed out the Suns in Phoenix with a seven-point win in Game 6.
The Suns lost the 1993 NBA Finals to Michael Jordan and the Bulls
It took three years for Phoenix to once again reach the Western Conference Finals but they ran into a tough Sonics team and lost in seven games. The Suns made two appearances in the conference finals in the 1980s, losing to Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers each time, and again lost in 1990, this time to the Portland Trail Blazers.
After losing in the first round of the NBA playoffs in 1991 and the second round in 1992, the Suns made a huge move ahead of the 1992-93 season by trading for Charles Barkley, who went on to win NBA MVP as Phoenix went 62-20 in the regular season to earn the No. 1 seed in the West.
After defeating the Lakers in the first round of the postseason, the Suns then disposed of the San Antonio Spurs in six and then bested the Sonics in an exciting seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals, setting up an NBA Finals matchup with Michael Jordan and the two-time defending champion Chicago Bulls.
As they had the better regular-season record, the Suns hosted the first two games but Jordan & Co. won both and headed home to the Windy City with a 2-0 series lead. But Phoenix took Game 3 in Chicago, which, oddly enough, was the second triple-overtime game in NBA Finals history. The Bulls took Game 4 behind a 55-point performance from MJ but the Suns survived by winning Game 5 to send the series back to the desert.
Barkley & Co. put themselves in a great position to send the series to a seventh game but a 33-point performance by Jordan and the John Paxson dagger in the final seconds gave the Bulls a one-point victory and a third consecutive title.
Phoenix has made four Western Conference Finals appearances since then
Since the loss to Chicago in the ’93 NBA Finals, the Suns have made four appearances in the Western Conference Finals, the first two coming in Steve Nash’s NBA MVP seasons in 2005 and 2006. In ’05, Phoenix lost in five games to the Spurs, who then went on to defeat the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. The following year, the Suns were ousted by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, who went on to lose to Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Miami Heat.
Phoenix returned to the conference finals in 2010 but lost in six games to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, who then beat the Celtics in the Finals, giving Kobe his fifth and final NBA championship.
The Suns’ fourth Western Conference Finals appearance since 1993 is currently ongoing as they’re engaged in battle with the Los Angeles Clippers, who are also looking to win their first NBA championship.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference