There's nothing like being at an NBA game!
My family and I went to watch the SUNS-TWolves last Saturday night, and the game, for me, really highlighted how PHX and MIN are heading in opposite directions.
We made our usual Christmas break trip up to the Twin Cities to see my sister and some friends, blah blah, but really, to catch the SUNS and a live NBA game. We arrived at the parking ramp about an hour early, and I could already tell something was different. The skywalks on the way to the Target Center were already busy! I've gone to at least one TWolf game a year for over 20 years (catching the SUNS each of the last 5 years) and we can usually waltz in with barely anyone around, except the dude playing his guitar with the open case to throw money in. We always park in the 4th Street ramp because it's so easy to get in and out of from the northwest corner of the Cities, so we have a bit of a trek across several blocks of skywalks. But clusters of people were already moving toward the game an hour early. And it was 4 degrees outside!! We usually have the place to ourselves that early, and my kids try to see how high they can jump touch the signs as we go, but it was too crowded to do that Saturday night.
The Target Center was really blaring when we got to our seats, in Section 215, front row balcony. And the arena was soon filled up! It was the TWolves' 3rd sellout of the season, and easily the loudest that gym has been since the Garnett days.
And the fans love their Wolves! They were more TWolf t-shirts, and coats, and jackets, and stocking caps-- even a snow hat in the shape of a wolf's head-- than I've ever seen! There were maybe a dozen or so SUNS shirts, but not as many as last year. And one Rocket's jersey, for some reason. And one kobe jersey, but I politely threw the kid out of a fourth story window. He landed in a snow bank. He's ok. Seriously. (Why do you wear a kobe jersey to a PHX-MIN game?)
They love K-Love, of course, which really goes without saying. They love their All-Star forward. And unfortunately, we didn't get to see Rubio because back spasms caused him to be a late game scratch. But KLove and Rubio's faces were everywhere as we walked in. And the fans roared for Pek ("Nee-ko-laaaaaaaaa!!") as he outmuscled Gortat, or especially Scola, who was pressed into backup center duty, and time after time, and butted his way down for another layup. And the fans love Shved ("Alexey!!"). "LUUUUUUUUUUUUKE!!" the fans screamed as Ridnour bombed in a three.
[The TWolves have to be the 'whitest' team in the NBA. I mean, we start Gortat, Scola, and the Dragon, but I think Minny's starting 5 was white. Anyway...]
And Crunch, the TWolves' mascot, helped keep the crowd at a fevered pitch, especially when he came out as Air Crunch in the 4th quarter, and shook it, and licked the security guard's head. The idiot who danced 'Gangnam Style' for an hour to win a Klondike Bar, ice cream on a stick, only added to the raucous, carnival atmosphere.
And, of course, it was a very close game, which increased the decibel level even more. PHX' biggest lead was like 3 points with 3 minutes left in the game, and that seemed mostly due to MIN's missed free throws down the stretch, which caused the fans to be all the noisier.
But for this PHX fan sitting in the midst of a roaring blizzard of screams and confetti at the game's end, there was sadness. Oh, I got a thrill as the SUNS first came out before the game, those orange warmups blazing as the layup drill began. And the players seemed loose, and were smiling and having fun. Beasley went over the halfcourt line and hugged Love, and chatted with a few other TWolves.
And Scola-- what a game! We all talk about how 'crafty' he is, but I swear you could see his brain humming in overdrive on every play-- all angles and vectors, arc-cosine tangent--"If I cut here, and flip the ball there, with a sideways spin of 33 1/3 rotations per minute, then I should slice to the left for rebound positioning..."
If we could hear Brown's thoughts, they would be all, "I got this! I can make it from here! Even farther out!"
And Beasley's brain would be like "-- --." The Minny fans booed him when he came in to the game. It was hilarious! Have you ever noticed how much he plays with the ball at about knee level? Swinging it around a bit, before one of his turnovers or missed shots? Who plays so much with ball down there? Stand up! Pass like a man! Anyway...
The Dragon's behind the back passing, and two--2!!--dunks!! were so fun to watch. And the JunkYardDog was as solid as ever.
Who do PHX fans love? Is there a single player we haven't talked about trading away for something better? Or even the hope of something better?
How do you get behind a team when the thought is lurking that any of these guys could be gone next year? ANY of them? Who do you love?
(I saw Lou Amundson during the warmups, only, I don't think he ever got into the game, and I must say I had to suppress a tear for the good ol' days.)
I want to love Dragic. I want him to be a flame-throwing, fire-spewing, Spurs chewing Dragon every game! Will he be in PHX next year?
I want to love Gortat. I want him to be the incredible lump of iron that Pek is, someone who rebounds and plays with abandon, someone other people bounce off and crash to the floor, or that other people have to lightly finesse shots around. Will he be a SUN next year? Do I invest myself in him?
PHX used to skate in there and slice the TWolves to ribbons. He-who-shall-not-be-named would sizzle and dissect and high five the SUNS to another win.
The only really bad part of our experience to and from our van to the Target Center was that one of the elevators in the parking ramp wasn't working. Only one was going up.