I began writing this blog post about the Suns versus Charlotte game at halftime on Monday night. I thought I was getting a head start on my postgame work but little did I know the game wasn’t even half-over at that point. I’ve heard it said that “Game Seven” are the two most exciting words in sports but the most exciting four words would have to be: “double overtime preseason game”.
The Suns couldn’t have asked for a better start on Monday night. Shaquille O’Neal got them on the board first by rattling down his first two free-throw attempts and I took it as a sign that the Suns were in for a special night. Even more impressive than Shaq’s 4-for-4 start from the stripe, though, was the Suns first-quarter defense. They held the Bobcats to 15 points and made sure the visitors worked hard for every point – giving up nothing easy in the paint.
When the buzzer sounded and Amar’e Stoudemire took the court, I was sure it was our night. STAT missed the first five games of the preseason after suffering an eye injury during training camp, but returned to action Monday to score 11 points in 17 minutes of play. After the game weary reporters huddled around Stoudemire begging for quotes while the All-Star was just digging into his postgame meal. With a bite of chicken waiting on his fork, a smiling Amar’e pretended to eat just as each question was asked until one reporter struck a deal, “If you answer one question, I will leave.”
“We definitely feel good to get a win out there in overtime tonight,” replied Stoudemire, “I felt pretty good for my first day back. To play 17 minutes felt good, although I’m not quite where I want to be.” That’s good news for Suns fans who can only expect things to get better. Personally, I was happy just seeing him put down a thunderous dunk in the second quarter. I won’t ask for anything better than that, Amar’e.
The second half of the game I watched as the winless Bobcats crept closer and eventually grabbed the lead. With just minutes left in the game, I hurried down to event level to catch the last few seconds. Thirty minutes later I was still waiting for the last few seconds of the second overtime. I half-expected baseball commissioner Bud Selig to show up and declare the game a tie and send everyone home.
The Suns’ Matt Barnes wouldn’t have minded that. “They should have ties in the preseason,” joked Barnes after the game. Although he used the extra time to finish with 18 points and seven rebounds.
The contest was nearly extended to a third overtime, but Charlotte couldn’t sink a three-pointer when it mattered most. As I was mentally preparing myself for a third extra session, though, I wondered aloud if the refs would simply allow it to be sudden death – first team to score a bucket wins. But down the stretch the Suns found the motivation to close out the game against an 0-6 team that was hungry for a win of their own. “We hung in there, just gutted it out. Both teams at the end were ready to give up, but we hung in there,” said Suns Head Coach Terry Porter.
Tonight we saw Amar’e again. We also saw a big Suns lead built primarily on defense. Then we saw the Suns, threatened with another home loss, fight back to win in crunch time. As Coach Porter remarked after the game, “This had a little bit of everything.” And then some.