Who says that home court advantages are meaningless?
Sure, playoff basketball is where “it” absolutely hits the fan — where each game either shifts a team’s needle towards a collective couch party, or advancement into even more meaningful face-offs en route to the ever-coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.
But that doesn’t necessarily denounce the importance of the regular season.
The 82-game (72 this year) grind is the foundational groundwork for the plights to come in the playoffs, and has an undeniable impact on a team’s fairings throughout playoff competition.
For Phoenix, its rampant run through the regular season slate earned the team the West’s second seed in postseason competition, which of course accompanied the privilege to defend their home court to begin play.
Their opponent: a foe that most fans couldn’t have even dreamt of seeing attached to 7-seed — the Los Angeles Lakers, who sputtered restlessly out of the starting gates, just barely making the cut after a dogfight play-in game against Golden State.
Still though, Los Angeles represented the favorite to take the series over a relatively young Suns group.
Of course, Chris Paul’s guidance and veteran savvy were indubitable pluses, and the team would’ve looked drastically different without Monty Williams’ expertise from the sidelines.
But LeBron James’ individual playoff experience dwarfed the Suns’ cumulative total as a unit heading into the affair (he played in 40 more postseason contests than the entire team combined), and his ageless tear through 2020’s bubble, coupled with the presence of his favorite archduke Anthony Davis made for an incredibly unfavorable matchup on paper for Phoenix.
This is where an indelible x-factor made its mark on the series though: the irreplaceable sixth man that is home court.
Phoenix Suns Arena (aptly named isn't it?) was a rambunctious assemblage of rowdy Valley Boyz allies from Game One on, and they provided a magnificent supportive boost to fuel the team during their home affairs.
Some were long-starved fans who had waited years to grace their eyes upon another playoff-bound Suns unit, while others weren’t even alive the last time their beloved squad sustained successful basketball past April.
And some were just as recognizable as the men who donned the Suns’ uniforms themselves.
JJ Watt. Diana Taurasi. Larry Fitzgerald. Kyler Murray. Calais Campbell.
The people are excited to see J.J Watt pic.twitter.com/OiaZ7MTIaT— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) June 2, 2021
All were seen in full-fledged support of the home team at the site for Game Five, but not one was greater in importance than the whole — some 16,000 in total — the most since the COVID shutdown.
Whatever the unique case of each individual present in the gymnasium was, they all fused together to create an atmospheric blend of ear-splitting cheers, jarring jeers and inseparable oneness that kept Phoenix in tact as they fought to dethrone the reigning champs.
The arena formerly known as “Talking Stick” provided more than enough full-mouthed commotion to propel its housemates to a Game One victory, and although Phoenix fell in Game Two, Game Five was the outing that put the electric power of Suns Nation on full display.
It started in a similar fashion to the first four, both squads traded respective blows as LeBron and Devin Booker imprinted their marks on the matchup.
But Phoenix began to take over midway through the first quarter, sparked by Book’s determined scoring mindset and spirited hustle from Cam Payne.
His first-quarter deep-ball to put PHX up 19-10 saw a unified explosion amongst Suns patrons, and the crowd airlifted the Suns into the stratosphere from there forward, establishing itself as an immense catalyst behind the team as it pulled away.
The second quarter was even better for the group, going on a massive 24-1 run that was sparked in large part by the BENCH.
The fans continued to erupt in succession as fan-favorites (Payne, Saric, Kaminsky) sunk home shot after shot, prompting the squad to a shocking 66-36 advantage.
That was all she wrote from there. Phoenix dominated LA in the second half of the matchup as well, and aside from a scary fall from Chris Paul, Suns Arena was one happy place to be for those who call the team their own.
A few scores of folks began to migrate outwards to beat the traffic around the 6-minute mark, and LeBron himself could be seen exiting the premises around the same time for an early shower.
But thousands remained in their seats until the sweet sound of the buzzer, reveling in the successful exports of guys like E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, Jevon Carter and even Jalen Smith — who knocked down a delightful trey as the game closed.
Good morning, Jalen Smith has the same number of made 3s as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in this series. pic.twitter.com/WgbSvExuEc— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) June 2, 2021
The night was a montage of jovial clamor, celebratory approval and hopeful optimism for what’s to come.
Deafening “Beat LA” roars percolated about the air throughout it, conjuring up past inklings of the once oft-heard chant.
the crowd has formally requested that the phoenix suns beat LA tn pic.twitter.com/ewDkylPhH8— katherine fitzgerald (@kfitz134) June 2, 2021
Phoenix saw its wishes come true in Game Six, as Devin Booker put on a miraculous performance in quintessential homage to his mentor — Kobe Bryant, to quench LAs fire.
The Suns stole two road wins en route to their historic takedown of King James and his subjects.
But don’t let that deter you — the home fans at Suns Arena provided an incomparable lift that could’ve vaulted the team through LA, to infinity, and beyond.
Welcome to the 2nd round, Suns Nation!
We’re just getting started.