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Dan Bickley

July is deer hunting season in Phoenix for the Suns

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 06: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns goes up for a slam dunk ahead of Jrue Holiday #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half of game one of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on July 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — In basketball, a true brotherhood is hard to beat. But a team with great chemistry and great players?

Those teams are practically invincible.

Welcome to the 2021 Suns.

Welcome to deer hunting season in Phoenix.

“I think we’re prepared for this moment,” Devin Booker said.

The Suns own a commanding 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals because they’re a superior team with a backcourt currently producing at historic levels. They duplicated their 118-point output from Game 1 against a vaunted Bucks defense. They made 20-of-40 three-point shots on Thursday, exceeding their shooting percentage from close range.

They lost Dario Saric to injury, absorbed a dominant performance from Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and still made it look easy.

“Our team, we got shooters. Like, real shooters,” Chris Paul said. “I say this all the time: It’s nice when you kick it to the guy and you expect him to make it.”

If you want one play to describe the heart and soul of this basketball, it wouldn’t be any of the clutch shots that Booker and Paul made in the second half. It wasn’t the timeout after the Bucks cut the deficit to six points with 4:32 left in the game, when there wasn’t a whiff of fear in the arena, where Suns fans are no longer waiting for bad breaks or shoes to drop.

No. It was the play at the end of the first half when the Suns moved the basketball like the Harlem Globetrotters. They made 10 passes in their half-court offense before Deandre Ayton scored at the rim and completed a three-point play.

That was the true power of the Suns, a team where everyone has the green light, where everyone is empowered to shoot the ball, where their selflessness is something to behold.

“That’s just who we are,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “One of our pillars is sharing the ball. My time in San Antonio under Pop (head coach Gregg Popovich) for all those years, I learned that when the ball moves like that, one, everybody gets to take ownership. And, two, it can have an effect on the defense … that was a huge momentum play for us.”

The Suns are now in the HOV lane to a championship. If there is poetic justice in these Finals, they will win one game in Milwaukee, earning a chance to clinch a championship in downtown Phoenix. Also, Jerry Colangelo will be in attendance for a Game 5, and it’s his last chance to experience that elusive NBA title in person, as he is leaving with Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics shortly thereafter.

At the very least, their performance in Game 2 should mute the idiocy of those attaching asterisks to the Suns’ postseason run, questioning the legitimacy due to all the fallen stars they’ve avoided along the way. This is a team that led the NBA in road victories, closed out three playoff opponents on the road and now have eight double-digit victories in the postseason.

Truth is, opposing fans are blinded by jealousy. Who wouldn’t want a basketball team like ours?

The Suns are tough, clutch and fun to watch. They don’t manage loads or take nights off. They play hard on both ends of the defense and can beat you in whatever style you choose. They have young core of players who are just getting started.

Before he was selected with the No. 1 overall pick, Deandre Ayton once claimed he and Booker could be Shaq and Kobe 2.0. Once, the prediction sounded ridiculously ambitious. Now it’s a warning siren to the rest of the league.

Finally, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went viral before Game 2. He paid homage to the infamous coin flip between the teams in 1969 by flipping his own coin. When it landed, Abdul-Jabbar proclaimed the
Bucks would win in six.

Sorry, that’s not going to happen. This is a new day in Phoenix. This is a team authoring one of the more dominant postseasons in history. As for the curses and heartbreaks and misfortunes of years past?

No more. The buck — and the Bucks — stop here.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier