Torrey Craig: Crowd noise at Phoenix Suns Arena ‘was another level’
If you forgot how loud Phoenix Suns Arena can get, forward Torrey Craig gave us a reminder in the 122-105 Game 1 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
With just under nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter and Phoenix up 100-84, Craig threw down an alley-oop pass from point guard Cam Payne to reach the crescendo and cap-off a 42-14 Suns run.
“No, not quite like that, man. That was another level,” Craig told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday when asked if he’s ever heard a crowd that loud before.
“I’m just happy we could put on a show for the fans because it goes hand-and-hand — we need them and we try to put on a show on for them and get a win. I’m just glad everybody could be there to witness it.”
The forward finished the night with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes played.
Craig added that the biggest factor in the Suns’ ability to come back and win so emphatically was Phoenix’s ability to play defense and get stops.
“Us just getting stops, man. It’s amazing what you can do in this league when you play defense and get stops. It leads to so many opportunities,” he said. “You saw it a lot last night. Once our defense kicked it and got stops, we started rolling, man.
“And once you get one stop and score and another stop and score, it’s keep building and building and the crowd gets louder and louder. The next thing you know, you have a double-digit lead and all the momentum and everything and the crowd is on your side. It all starts with defense.”
Coming into Monday night’s contest, the Suns were the only remaining playoff team to have their opponents averaging less than 100 points per game.
And after a six-game series in the first round with the Los Angeles Lakers — who deployed bigs such as Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol — the Suns were ready for a physical battle on the boards with Denver, who boast this season’s regular-season MVP in Nikola Jokic.
“We knew coming in that Denver was a great offensive rebounding team,” Craig said. “But we felt like we had already been put to the test with the Lakers’ size and their offensive rebounding capabilities. So we were kind of already warmed up for that and (Monday) night I think we did a good job of defensive rebounding.”
The Suns won the total rebounding battle 44-11, but were edged by the Nuggets on the offensive glass 11-7.
Craig was with Denver from 2017-20, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in last year’s postseason held in the bubble in Orlando.
Monty Williams and Co. have relied on Craig’s familiarity with the Nuggets as somewhat of a scouting report, as the Suns look to get every advantage they can in their first playoff appearance in over a decade.
“You’re competing against guys that you used to compete with,” Craig said. “Obviously making a deep playoff run last year with the guys and now being on a new team going up against them is exciting because you know how talented those guys are over there. …
“Just playing with those guys for years and being in the playoffs with those guys — just trying to share my knowledge of what tendencies they have, things that they do well, things that they don’t do so well, individual players. Just trying to fill them in the best that I can because we need it. In the playoffs, you need any help you can get so that’s what I’m trying to provide.”
Craig came over from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash considerations earlier this season and will be a free agent come the end of the 2020-21 NBA postseason.
The forward added that Phoenix was a preferred destination in free agency even before signing with the Bucks last offseason.
So would Craig be willing to come back to the Valley on a one-year deal next year?
“That’s something that I’d have to discuss with my agent and my team, but I definitely wouldn’t mind it,” he said.
“I think the coaches here fit me perfectly. The personalities in the locker room fit perfectly. So it would make the most sense, but it’s a little too early to tell right now.”
The Suns host the Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday night in Phoenix.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.