The best plays and games of Arizona sports teams in 2020
2020 was a year the sports world had never seen before and hopefully never sees again. While there were months without any action amid the coronavirus pandemic, the year still provided some good moments and games for sports teams in Arizona.
Here’s a look back at each team’s best game and play over the past 12 months.
Best Game: Seattle Seahawks vs. Cardinals, Oct. 25
When the Cardinals were flexed to Sunday Night Football on Oct. 25, the team not only got a chance to seen by NFL fans across the country but also put on a good show.
Trailing 34-24 with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals got an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Seattle on a field goal attempt.
The call gave Arizona a first down, which later led to a touchdown.
Kicker Zane Gonzalez hit a field goal from 44 yards away on the ensuing drive to tie things up with two seconds left in regulation.
After missing a game-winning chance from 41 yards away, Gonzalez got a second chance after an Isaiah Simmons interception and hit the game-winning field goal from 48 yards away with 20 seconds left in overtime.
Top Play: The Hail Murray
Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary throw to DeAndre Hopkins and his catch to beat the Bills on Nov. 15 is no doubt the top play for the Cardinals in 2020, but it might end up pretty high on the best plays of the decade too for not only the Cardinals but Arizona sports teams in general.
A truly magical moment in the early history of Hopkins and Murray.
Best Game: D-backs vs. San Diego Padres, July 27
After back-to-back losses against the Padres to begin the 2020 season, the D-backs had a 2-1 lead in the 8th inning disappear on a Greg Garcia RBI single.
Arizona got to Padres closer Kirby Yates in the next inning, however, loading the bases and taking the lead on a sacrifice fly from Ketel Marte and a David Peralta RBI single.
Peralta came up big in the bottom of the ninth, making a wonderful over the shoulder catch. That loomed large as the Padres would get a run off closer Archie Bradley and had the tieing run at second base when Bradley retired Will Myers to seal the win.
Top Play: D-backs get runner at the plate, win game
The top play of the season also comes against the Padres. Arizona saw a 7-3 9th inning lead turn into a one-run advantage on Aug. 15.
Jurickson Profar hit a ball into the gap and pinch-runner Jorge Mateo tried to score from first. Starling Marte threw it to Ketel Marte who sent a laser to the plate to get Mateo out and win the game.
That was part of a streak where the D-backs won five of six games and momentarily got back into the postseason race.
Best Game: Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers, Aug. 4
The Suns’ time in the bubble was really a period that will go down in Arizona history. It showed a change of culture and the emergence of Devin Booker on the national stage. After beating the Dallas Mavericks 117-115 on Aug. 4, the Suns found themselves in a 115-115 tie with 8 seconds left two days later. Booker had the ball, let time wind down and took a fadeaway shot that went in as time expired.
Top Play: The Booker meme
Best Play: Obviously that Booker shot had to be the best play of the year. After all, it led to a popular meme. Anything that leads to a meme immediately gets the top spot of play of the year.
Best Game: Coyotes vs. Predators, Aug. 7
What’s better than overtime in hockey? Qualifying round overtime hockey. The Coyotes found themselves in that position on Aug. 7, when Nashville tied things up at 3 with 31.9 seconds left in the third period.
Brad Richardson scored the game-winning goal near the start of the overtime period, sending the Coyotes to the First Round of the NHL Playoffs, where they lost in a series 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche.
Top Play: The Raanta skate save
Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta made some incredible saves in 2020, but perhaps none better than the one against his old team the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 1. Raanta blocked a shot from Brandon Saad using his skate, robbing Saad of a hat trick.
Phoenix Rising FC
Best Game: Phoenix Rising FC vs. Reno 1868 FC, Oct. 17
It really is too bad the championship was canceled because Phoenix Rising FC in 2020 sure had a flair for the dramatic. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, Phoenix Rising FC came back to the match 2-2 AET, winning the match 5-4 on penalties.
After Reno missed the fifth spot-kick, striker Rufat Dadashov knocked in the winning shot for Phoenix Rising FC, sending the team to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years.
Top Play: Forward Junior Flemmings dances through defenders for score
— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) August 6, 2020
Phoenix Rising FC forward Junior Flemmings had a great month on the pitch in August, being named USL Championship’s August Player of the Month.
He scored seven goals over six matches, including having been honored with goal of the week in two separate weeks.
One of these goals on Aug. 1, against El Paso Locomotive FC, was truly spectacular.
Arizona State Sun Devils Football
Best Game: Arizona State vs. Arizona, Dec. 11
Arizona State and Arizona football have played some classic games over their history. The 2020 matchup on Dec. 11 between the two was far from a classic.
The Sun Devils dropped 70 points on the Wildcats in Tucson and led to the firing of Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin.
The win was one of two for Arizona State in the team’s four-game season.
Top Play: D.J. Taylor starts ASU off quick in Tucson
The best play of the Sun Devils came on the first play of that Wildcats blowout. D.J. Taylor took the opening kickoff from his own endzone and ran it back for a touchdown. A pretty clear indication how the rest of the game was going to go.
Honorable mention to Jackson He, whose touchdown later in the game made him the first Chinese player in FBS history to reach the endzone.
Arizona State Sun Devils Men’s Basketball
Best Game: Arizona vs. Arizona State, Jan. 25
While the first meeting between Arizona State and Arizona on the hardwood last season wasn’t very thrilling, the second game between the two on Jan. 25 more than made up for it.
Trailing 43-30 at halftime, the Sun Devils came back and took the lead eight minutes into the second half.
Alonzo Verge Jr. drove into the paint and scored a basket with 11.6 seconds to give ASU the lead. The Sun Devil defense held up on the other end to take the game, 66-65.
Top Play: Remy Martin’s clutch shot gives Arizona State the win over USC
Remy Martin has been part of many highlights during his time wearing the maroon and gold, and his shot on Feb. 8 against USC capped off an instant classic.
Part of what made the highlight so incredible is the ball did a few rotations on the basket before finally going in, leaving everyone in the arena on the edge of their seat.
Arizona Wildcats Football
Best Game: N/A
OK, but for real, it was a tough season for the Arizona Wildcats football team. The Wildcats didn’t win a game in 2020, and haven’t been in the win column since Oct. 2019. Arizona did play well against No. 20 USC on Nov. 14, only losing by four points on the road.
Top Play: Tayvian Cunningham goes 75 yards to tie things up with USC
He’s gone ⚡️
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 14, 2020
The best play comes from that same game and made USC sweat for a few minutes after coming back to avoid an upset against Arizona State the week earlier. A 75-yard touchdown by Arizona wide receiver Tayvian Cunningham in the third quarter brought the Wildcats to a 20-20 tie with USC.
Arizona Wildcats Men’s Basketball
Best Game: Arizona vs. Washington, Jan. 30
Coming off a crushing loss to rival Tempe, the Wildcats found themselves in another close game against the Washington Huskies in Seattle. The two teams went back and forth in the second half after Arizona took a 3-point lead to halftime. Trailing by 1 point with 44 seconds left, Jemarl Baker Jr. made a shot from beyond the arch to give Arizona the lead. Arizona held on thanks to a costly Washington turnover with 15 seconds left.
Top Play: Jemarl Baker Jr. comes up big for Arizona in Seattle
The same play takes the top spot Arizona highlights in 2020 on the hardwood. The team had a more thrilling shot last season with a buzzer-beater to Pepperdine, but that happened in 2019 so that’s against the rules.
Best Game: Phoenix Mercury vs. Washington Mystics, Sept. 15
The Phoenix Mercury’s only win in the 2020 playoffs was a thriller as the team beat the reigning champion Washington Mystics 85-84, advancing to the WNBA Second Round. Skylar Diggins-Smith had 24 points in the win while Diana Taurasi added 23.
Phoenix didn’t have the same luck in the next round against the Minnesota Lynx, losing 80-79.
Top Play: Diggins-Smith’s last-second heave
SHE’S. ABOUT. THAT. pic.twitter.com/9cO1ntLTTI
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) September 10, 2020
Some people are not surprised when they make remarkable plays. That could be certainly be said about Diggins-Smith. Down three points against the Connecticut Sun on Sept. 9 with 1.5 seconds left, she took the inbound pass and threw the ball up just past midcourt.
It was nothing but net as she tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Her reaction after the basket is just as good as the play itself. Phoenix went on to win 100-95.
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