DAN BICKLEY

Bickley: These Suns make you ecstatic to be in Phoenix during summer heat

Jul 6, 2021, 9:49 PM | Updated: 10:10 pm
Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate during the second half in Game One ...
Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate during the second half in Game One of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Arena on July 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Devin Booker knows how to make an entrance. He pulled up to work on Monday in another classic car from his collection. He was dressed completely in black. He parked in a spot reserved for “Colangelo.”

Only a real boss can get away with that.

A few hours later, Booker had forged another brilliant Game 1 performance, once again setting the tone for the game and an entire series.

He played fast and decisively. He scored 27 points. He looked positively thrilled to have Patrick Beverley out of his jersey and in the rearview mirror. The only thing that will stop him from setting the NBA record for most points in his playoff debut might be a four-game sweep of the Bucks.

“It’s the formula for any team (to be successful),” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “You want to win every game, but especially the first game. It gives you a level of confidence.”

The Suns’ 118-105 victory was their 13th playoff win in 17 tries. They scored 20 fast-break points. They devoured the Bucks’ switching defense, goading Brook Lopez into a minus-17. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has a reputation for waiting too long to make adjustments, but his strategy effectively allowed the Suns guards to choose the defender of their liking. Their starting five combined for 96 points and the only guy with Finals experience (Jae Crowder) didn’t make a field goal.

Pinching yourself yet?

After yet another rollicking house party in downtown Phoenix, the Suns are three victories removed from getting championship rings to the two most-deserving athletes in professional sports: Chris Paul and Larry Fitzgerald.

You can sense Paul closing in on a career-defining achievement, spotting the finish line for the first time in 16 years. He erupted in the third quarter of Game 1 and now has 73 points in his past two games.

“We just know he’s ready, man,” Mikal Bridges said. “He’s prepared his whole life for this moment.”

Meanwhile, it was also a great night for Cam Johnson, who missed that raucous Game 6 victory against the Clippers with food poisoning, spending most of the night in the bathroom.

“I thought he was great,” Williams said.

There was a fear that a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo might change the calculus. He did not, even though the Bucks tried their hardest to spring the two-time MVP as a game-time surprise. After all, Giannis started the day as “doubtful,” only to see his team run an alley-oop for him on the very first play of the game.

But Booker’s breathtaking start stole all the proverbial thunder from Antetokounmpo’s show of resilience and toughness. A clutch three-point shot stole the last gasps of life from the Bucks, a team that had closed within seven points in the fourth quarter. This summer is shaping up as just rewards for all he endured early in his career, where he might pull off an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal.

There was also a fear that soaring ticket prices at Phoenix Suns Arena might change the decibel level, pricing out the youthful passion that has served as the soundtrack of the postseason. It did not.

In fact, the energy in Game 1 was so ear-splitting that veteran NBA scribe Marc J. Spears said Phoenix now boasts the loudest arena in the league.

Think about that for a moment.

Whether it’s the Suns’ status as Arizona’s first love or the pent-up frustrations that came with 10 years of dysfunction, this postseason has been more than a revelation. It is proving an important point to a region full of transplants and mixed allegiances: Nothing is better than a home team that galvanizes the community.

And these Suns have done the impossible: They make you ecstatic to be in Phoenix in the month of July.

Penguin Air
Phoenix Suns fans pose for a selfie prior to game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Fans cheer prior to game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool) Milwaukee Bucks forward P.J. Tucker (17) reacts as he is called for a foul on Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up prior to Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) gets fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, second from left, as Suns forward Mikal Bridges, left, looks on during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, gabs a rebound as Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, right, arrives late during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges dishes off as Milwaukee Bucks forward P.J. Tucker (17) defends during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) looks for a call during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives as Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) defends during the first half of game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo passes around Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the first half of game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, as Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, right, defends during the first half of game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) dishes off around Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) drives as Milwaukee Bucks guard Jeff Teague falls during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Milwaukee Bucks forward P.J. Tucker (17) scores as Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, back left, Bucks center Bobby Portis, front left, and Suns forward Mikal Bridges, right, look on during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks fans, front left, are surrounded by cheering Phoenix Suns fans during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker warms up prior to game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, left, drives past Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, back left, and Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) scores as Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) is called for goaltending during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, is helped up by forward Mikal Bridges as Milwaukee Bucks forward P.J. Tucker, right, reacts after being called for a foul on Booker during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns fans participate in festivities prior to Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns fans participate in festivities prior to Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, right, steals the ball from Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) as forward Cameron Johnson (23) looks on during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Fans cheer as the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns compete during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker lies on the court after an offensive foul called against him during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) knocks the ball away from Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) shoots under Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) The Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns stand for the national anthem prior to Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul lies on the court after being fouled by Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez, left, as forward Mikal Bridges (25) looks on during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots over Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez, left, during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) looks to pass as Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23)defends during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks as Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig, right, looks on during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) pumps his fists after a basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) dunks against Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton, front left, gets stopped by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, Suns center Deandre Ayton, second from right, and Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) 
              Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives pst Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, left, has the ball tipped away by Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) 
              Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez rebounds as Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, right, looks on during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)
            Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer argues with officials during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, left, shoots a 3-pointer over Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton (24) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) greets guard Chris Paul, left, after Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns won 118-105. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) and Chris Paul (3) hug after Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) scores as Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) and Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, left, look on during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker drives as Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis, left, defends during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scores as he gets past Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) and Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, left, during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns fans cheer on their team during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) passes the ball to Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) greets center Deandre Ayton (22) after Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns won 118-105. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) shoots over Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton (24) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) greets guard Chris Paul, left, after Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns won 118-105. (AP Photo/Matt York) Milwaukee Bucks forward P.J. Tucker (17) battles with Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky (8) for a loose ball as Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) looks on during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns fans cheer on Suns guard Chris Paul (3) after he made a 3-pointer against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams talks to his assistant coaches during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, right, gets off a shot as Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) defends during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne celebrates his made 3-pointer against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and Suns forward Mikal Bridges, right, run down the court after a Suns score against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns' Cameron Payne (15) shoots over Milwaukee Bucks' Pat Connaughton (24) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. (Christian Petersen/Pool Photo via AP)

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