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May 31, 2006

It's Official--This Year's Suns Better than Last's

Last year, I was preparing for a Game 5 showdown with the Spurs knowing that the season was about to end on our court in Phoenix. One playoff win allowed the Suns to salvage some respect and not get swept out of the playoffs. Last night was the first Suns home Western Conference Finals win since 1993. And going into game 5 this year, it's a best of three series.

Last night Jeremy and I arrived our usual 30 minutes early to watch warm-ups. And as we watched the tunnel, Raja Bell was not in a suit. We kepted counting players and watching him take layups and shots, undeterred by his partially torn calf muscle. And then Jesse came out. A little trumpet to get the night started and some introductions for the Mavs. Dim the lights and bam, starting at 2 guard, Raja Bell.

Like I said, we sit next to the "Bell Tower" in section 211. We were all in disbelief. Mike D'Antoni said it best--to keep Raja out of game 4 he would have to shoot him. 30 minutes and 9 points later, the Suns showed what has gotten an undersized and outmanned team within 6 wins of a title--guts and heart. And Raja brings both of those every single night. Whether it is guarding Kobe or hitting a big 3 against the Clippers to save the season, you better bring more than an elbow or two to stop him.

So now here it is. An emotional roller coaster of a season in which Amare was lost before training camp, Joe Johnson and Q departed, an opening loss to the Mavs in double OT, losing streaks, winning streaks, Bryan Colangelo leaving, Amare's return, Kurt Thomas's fracture, Amare's departure for the rest of the season, two game 7's, 82 regular season games, and 18 playoff games later, this team stands 6 wins from a title.

And last night they responded knowing that their season was over if they lost. But hey, they did the same for three straight against the Lakers. They did the same in games 5 and 7 against the Clippers. As we were walking out last night, there was a new energy. A team going somewhere they had not been since 1993. A team that will not lose. There is something special about this Suns team. I don't know if last night was a "bloody sock" type moment yet, but seeing Raja and Kurt Thomas come back and the Suns look like the unstoppable force they were at times this year makes me believe. It is possible. It can be done. And to all the doubters that said this team could not win without Amare, that Nash is not the MVP, that this style cannot win in the playoffs--it is a best of 3 series. Two wins then four more. Something special is happening.

Posted by Justin at May 31, 2006 09:34 AM