For two NBA playoff teams, Sunday was Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
For the 14 playoff teams already eliminated, Sunday was simply the end of the weekend.
However, the sting of not being in the Finals this year stings more for three teams.
Teams like the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Minnesota Timberwolves were younger teams still looking to build their postseason experience.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks are also both young teams who made runs past the first round.
While teams like the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, and Milwaukee Bucks all dealt with major injury issues.
But these three teams had title aspirations and came up short.
Their respective offseasons will carry a sense of disappointment in how 2022 ended for them
3. Brooklyn Nets
First up is the preseason title favorite for the 2021-22 season, the Brooklyn Nets.
And after making a blockbuster trade to acquire James Harden midway through the 2020-21 season, they were seen as a near-lock to win a title soon.
To this point, that has not been the case.
Injuries to both Harden and Irving in last year’s playoffs led to a second-round exit at the hands of the Bucks.
This season saw Brooklyn deal with the latest antics from Irving as well as significant missed time from Durant.
On top of Harden forcing his way out of town for a second consecutive year to the Sixers.
It all culminated with a first-round sweep to the Boston Celtics.
All four games were close, but Durant seemed like a mere mortal against the Celtics’ staunch defense.
KD averaged 26.3 points per game but did so on 38.6 shooting from the field – a far cry from his 47.6% postseason career average.
Sean Marks non-committal on Kyrie Irving's future. Says the Nets want a player who will be available, among other things.
— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) May 11, 2022
And now there are reports the Nets do not want to re-sign Irving because of his spotty recent history.
Realistically, Irving will return as a Net next season.
But the terms of how he returns will be worth monitoring.
For a team who entered the year with three superstar talents and the best odds at winning a title, 2022 can only be seen as a bust of a year.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Next is the team who was the trade partner with the Nets for the midseason Harden deal, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sixers’ General Manager Daryl Morey finally reunited with his star guard from Houston while simultaneously ending the Ben Simmons saga.
They seemed primed to finally contend for a title as they raced out to a 3-0 series lead against the Raptors.
However, that good mojo died quickly.
Embiid suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb during Game 3.
The Sixers say Joel Embiid underwent surgery yesterday to repair his sprained right thumb that he injured during the playoffs, and that he also has a procedure done to repair an injury to his left index finger.
He’s expected to be ready for training camp.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 31, 2022
The Sixers lost two straight before closing things out in Game 6.
But a Pascal Siakam elbow caused Embiid to suffer a concussion and orbital contusion and held him out of the first two games in the second round.
Philly dropped both playoff games and the deficit proved to be too much.
The Miami Heat dispatched them in six.
In the end, the Sixers suffered a fourth second-round exit in five years.
For a team who has consistently said a lead-guard of Harden’s caliber would take them over the top, it was a disappointing result.
Harden failed to show up when it mattered most, and the supporting cast was not good enough to pick up the slack.
This offseason may be Morey’s last chance to build a contender in Philly.
1. Phoenix Suns
Finally, we have the Phoenix Suns.
The best team in the NBA this season by a full eight games with a record of 64-18.
Deandre Ayton took further steps in developing his game on both ends in his fourth year.
But all of that was for naught as the Suns fell in seven to the Mavericks in the second round.
And it was not a hard-fought end to their season.
The Mavericks crushed them by 33 points in Game 7 – a number that was somehow closer than the game was.
The Mavericks advance to the conference finals for the first time since their 2011 championship season by eviscerating the league's No. 1 overall seed, Phoenix, on the Suns' homecourt by 33 points in a Game 7. Mavs-Warriors figures to be a good, old-fashioned showdown.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 16, 2022
Meanwhile, Booker finished 3-14 from the field and Ayton logged only 17 minutes.
After the game, coach Monty Williams‘ explanation for Ayton’s limited playing time in Game 7 was that “it’s internal”.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
And now, sources tell “The Athletic” that it is “more likely than not” that Ayton is not with Phoenix next year.
The best team in the association this year entered the playoffs as the no-brainer pick to hoist the NBA Finals Trophy.
It ended in a whimper with serious concerns moving forward.
2022 was a disappointing season for the Suns.