Let’s remember the best Arizona sports performances of the decade

Dec 31, 2019, 10:11 AM
From left to right, Devin Booker (AP) in his 70-point game against the Celtics, Cardinals RB Beanie...
From left to right, Devin Booker (AP) in his 70-point game against the Celtics, Cardinals RB Beanie Wells setting the franchise single-game rushing record (Getty Images) and ASU's Kalen Ballage tying the FBS touchdown mark for a single game (Getty Images).
(Getty Images)

Let us cling to some fun memories of the 2010s.

The Arizona sports landscape provided single games that stuck in the record books. Others simply stuck in our minds.

That said, there’s no exact science to the following list or cutoff point. It includes statistical improbabilities, single-game oddities and significant playoff games that stuck out. Sometimes the context around a single game mattered, sometimes it didn’t at all.

Here’s a collection of some of the best individual performances from the past decade in Arizona sports.

Suns’ Goran Dragic ignites vs. Spurs

It wasn’t a full game. But it was a darn good fourth quarter for second-year pro Goran Dragic on May 7, 2010.

Phoenix’s backup point guard scored 23 of 26 points in the fourth quarter of a Game 3 Western Conference semifinals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, who the Suns had a troubling history against in the postseason. By the end of his performance that helped Phoenix pull away thanks to scores off drives, jump-stopping hooks and a four-point-play, the Suns had a 3-0 lead that would end in a series sweep of the Spurs.

It was also a defining moment for the young Slovenian’s blossoming career.

Diamondbacks’ Edwin Jackson has a unique, complete no-hitter

Edwin Jackson posted the second no-hitter in D-backs history in the ugliest of ways on June 25, 2010.

Joining the company of Randy Johnson is never a bad thing.

Through three innings, Jackson had already tossed 70 pitches and would need some convincing to persuade manager Kirk Gibson to keep him on the mound beyond that point. He apparently won all those battles, as Jackson threw another 79 pitches for 149 total in a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Jackson’s eight walks and hit batter were the most in MLB history for a no-hitter as well.

D-backs 1B Goldschmidt hits grand slam in Game 3

The Diamondbacks were behind 0-2 when they entered Game 3 of the 2011 NLDS series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

And though they already had a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth frame, odds got a whole lot better when rookie Paul Goldschmidt smacked a grand slam off right-hander Shaun Marcum.

That accounted for four runs of a five-RBI night. Goldschmidt’s single in the first inning scored Miguel Montero and put Arizona ahead 2-0 to start off an eventual 8-1 victory.

Arizona would drop the series, 3-2, but the grand slam in Goldschmidt’s second postseason game marked a pivotal moment in his career that would lead to six All-Star berths, among other accolades.

Cardinals RB Beanie Wells sets single-game franchise record

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Third-year pro Beanie Wells rushed 27 times for 228 yards — that’s 8.4 yards per rush — during a Nov. 27, 2011, road visit to St. Louis, stamping his name in the Cardinals franchise record books.

His performance included a 71-yard rush and a seven-yard touchdown score, and Arizona went on to win 23-20.

Mike Smith helps push Coyotes into long playoff run

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona won the Pacific Division thanks to a five-game winning streak to end the regular season, and it did so with the Sharks and Kings within one and two points of the Coyotes, respectively, by the end of the year.

Goalie Mike Smith had a lot to do with it.

He produced three shutouts in a row to start that five-game stretch and saw his scoreless streak end at 230 minutes and 160 straight shots against him. That streak included a 54-save game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3, 2012, that was an NHL record for most saves in a regulation-length outing (it’s since been surpassed by Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, who made 59 saves during a regulation games in 2014).

Smith’s hot streak allowed Arizona to push deep into the playoffs, where they reached the Western Conference Finals.

D-backs RHP Josh Collmenter throws a complete game shutout facing minimum

On May 29, 2014, starting right-hander Josh Collmenter faced the minimum of 27 batters, as double plays by his defense negated his three hits allowed in a 4-0 Arizona win.

It was just the second time a Diamondbacks pitcher had faced the minimum in nine full frames, as he joined Randy Johnson’s May 2004 perfect game in that regard.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald runs past the Packers

As few times as Larry Fitzgerald has appeared in the playoffs, none show his impact and production when he did like the Jan. 16, 2016, NFC Divisional Game between his Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers.

Eight receptions on 12 targets and 176 yards of offense is pretty good. But when 80 of those yards and a touchdown come on a game-winning overtime drive of just three plays — and followed a 41-yard Hail Mary pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis that forced extra time — it’s darn memorable.

Carson Palmer spun off a would-be tackler and found Fitzgerald in the flat on the first play from scrimmage in overtime for a 75-yard catch-and-run, and the receiver closed the win by taking a flip-pass for the remaining five yards to the end zone.

ASU’s Ballage goes berserk to set TD record

Current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury brought their Texas Tech Air Raid to Sun Devil Stadium, and that meant Arizona State needed to keep up.

Running back Kalen Ballage made sure the Sun Devils did just that, tying an NCAA single-game record with eight total touchdowns in a 68-55 win on Sept. 11, 2016.

Ballage accumulated 185 total yards — 137 rushing and 48 receiving — while tying the single-game touchdown record set by Howard Griffith (Illinois, 1990).

Seven of the running back’s scores came via rushes, while he added one more as a receiver.

Suns’ Devin Booker goes for 70 points

It was a 130-120 loss to the Boston Celtics on March 24, 2017, that wasn’t necessarily as close as the box score would indicate. But amid a very sad season, it was a point of arrival for the then-21-year-old scoring guard.

Devin Booker poured in 70 points, becoming the sixth player to ever reach that mark, joining an impressive list that includes Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and Kobe Bryant. It was the 11th such game ever accomplished. And yes, head coach Earl Watson wasn’t ducking the fact that he helped fluff that point total by late timeouts called and intentionally fouling the Celtics.

Still, it was impressive. Booker went 21-of-40 from the field with just four three-pointers made. He got a chunk of his points from the free-throw line, where he went 24-of-26, finishing off several and-ones at the stripe. He also added eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in the loss.

Mercury’s Diana Taurasi breaks the WNBA all-time career scoring record

So what if this isn’t a single-game performance? Taurasi’s June 18, 2017, layup before halftime of a loss to the Los Angeles Sparks was good enough to lead to a stoppage in play.

In just her 13th season as a pro, Taurasi broke the WNBA’s all-time scoring record by surpassing Tina Thompson’s previous mark of 7,488.

Thompson needed four more seasons to reach her total.

Diamondbacks’ J.D. Martinez lives up to nickname vs. Dodgers

A pre-deadline trade acquisition in July, the former Detroit Tigers slugger didn’t take long to acclimate to playing for the Diamondbacks.

J.D. Martinez’s production in September tied the NL record of 16 homers for that month and surpassed Luis Gonzalez’s franchise mark for most bombs in a single month. It was helped by a four-hit performance on Sept. 4, 2017, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a game Arizona won 13-0. Those four hits went were all home runs for “Just Dingers” Martinez.

By the end of his 62-game run with the D-backs, Martinez had recorded 70 hits with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs. He scored 47 runs over than span while slashing .302/.366/.741.

Wildcats QB Khalil Tate bursts onto the scene, through the Buffs

With all due respect to former Arizona running back Kadeem Carey’s Pac-12 record of 336 yards rushing against Colorado in 2012, Khalil Tate’s 327 against the Buffaloes on Oct. 7, 2017, carry a little more weight.

That total set an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Tate wasn’t even the starting quarterback for the Wildcats heading into the game.

Brandon Dawkins went down with an injury, and Tate took over only to finish with 14 carries for 327 yards (23.4 yards per rush), four rushing touchdowns, and 154 yards through the air while completing 12-of-13 passes, one of which went for another score.

Tate’s touchdown runs came on bursts of 75, 58, 47 and 28 yards in the 45-42 win.

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Let’s remember the best Arizona sports performances of the decade