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.

Dan Bickley


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Who is this Phoenix Suns team and where are they going?

While Phoenix Suns fans are looking for silver linings following their playoff opening loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dan Bickley questions this team and its motives ahead of Game 2 on Tuesday.

12 hours ago

Devin Booker drives against Karl-Anthony Towns...

Dan Bickley

Suns’ psychological edge vanished with Game 1 Timberwolves win

The Suns lost more than a basketball game on Saturday. They lost their edge and their psychological advantage.

2 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Can Devin Booker and Kevin Durant have a ‘Golden Summer’

Dan Bickley askes if Kevin Durant and Devin Booker can wins a gold medal and an NBA championship in the same summer during his Bickley Blast.

4 days ago

The Coyotes brought out a whiteout for the franchise's last home game in Phoenix. (Jeremy Schnell/A...

Dan Bickley

Coyotes fans turn relocation funeral into party with 1 last whiteout

Diehards had one parting wish. They wanted one final whiteout. They wanted the Coyotes’ last NHL game in the Valley to be a party. 

5 days ago

Rory McIlroy looks on...

Dan Bickley

Golf once again at a crossroads with LIV Golf, PGA Tour still at odds

There are heavy consequences to the gold rush mentality currently infecting the sport of golf, writes Dan Bickley.

7 days ago

The Arizona Coyotes...

Dan Bickley

Arizona Coyotes relocation not our fault, it’s on the owner and local politics

Arizona is a very good hockey market and Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and local politicians should be blamed for their relocation.

9 days ago

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