DAN BICKLEY

Energy of Phoenix Suns fans is the best story of the NBA postseason

Jun 14, 2021, 7:23 PM

Phoenix Suns fans cheer as time runs out in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playof...

Phoenix Suns fans cheer as time runs out in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver. Phoenix won 125-118 to sweep the series. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Phoenix Suns are the second-best story of the postseason. They have won seven consecutive playoff games. Their closest margin of victory was Sunday’s 125-118 win over the Nuggets, a game that never felt in jeopardy.

Their surging playoff status ranks only behind you, the growing army of Suns fans in Arizona, a rabid contingent tilting the machine. You are the Cinderella story of the NBA postseason.

Halfway to a championship, and home games at Phoenix Suns Arena have become merciless on the ears and the opponents. The crowd is young, diverse and eager to contribute. The energy is even better than the noise.

We are witnessing a confluence of landmark events in Phoenix: the release of pent-up energy from pandemic isolation; a fire that has been growing around this team since their 8-0 bubble performance in Orlando; the stunning offseason acquisitions of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder; the much-needed maturation of Deandre Ayton; and a renovated arena perfectly appointed to serve a people-watching, celeb-obsessed kind of town.

The cumulative effect is exhilarating. We’ve seen four young boys go viral in the crescendo of a Torrey Craig dunk. We embraced the brave lad who so identified with these Suns that he went to war with his shirt during a raucous timeout while cameras scanned the crowd, exposing his tender torso to the world because his basketball team made him strong.

Chris Paul was watching, and couldn’t believe his eyes. Just like Ayton’s reaction to the coming-home party Suns fans staged after the demolition in Denver.

Sweeps are impact statements. They put an entire postseason on notice. And over two road games in Denver, Valley fans flipped the script entirely, filling another team’s arena with hostile Suns fans. They preyed on a weak opponent and a soft market, in a city that was fast losing hope.

We all know the feeling. It is the bane of our sporting existence. We are famous for surrendering our largest stadiums without much resistance. Too often, our major franchises make us docile and detached. But not anymore. Over the weekend, our weakness became a strength. Suns fans hit the road just to make a stand. One of them became an instant legend.

This is not meant to glorify violence. But the Nuggets fan swung first. And the guy in the Suns jersey who fought with an alarming combination of force and chill not only delivered a tagline for the ages (“Suns in four!”). He seemed to symbolize this entire journey.

These Suns will not be sucker punched from the playoffs. Not by a Nuggets fan throwing a hidden haymaker from higher ground. Not by a fluke injury to Chris Paul in the opening moments of the 2021 playoffs. Not by David Stern, Robert Horry or John Paxson.

Not by anything.

Not yet.

Dan Bickley

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