PHOENIX — Have you ever had 16,645 people waiting anxiously to hear the next words coming out of your mouth?
For the first 18,240 days of my life, the answer to that question was an unequivocal ‘no’.
That changed Tuesday night.
After Jae Crowder lobbed a pass to Deandre Ayton for a dunk with less than a second to go, giving the Phoenix Suns a one-point lead in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, I found myself, as the public address announcer, in that very situation.
Does the basket count? Is it basket interference? What in the world is going on?
The NBA rules state officials can review pretty much everything that happens on the floor in the last two minutes of a game. When Scott Foster is the crew chief, as he was Tuesday, everything does get reviewed. It’s in an effort to make sure the right call is made, sure, but it also takes all the flow and momentum out of a game.
So after Ayton’s dunk, another review happens — the fourth of this game’ last two minutes. As our own Kellan Olson pointed out on ArizonaSports.com, there wasn’t really much doubt on whether or not the basket was good.
In 2017, Suns center Tyson Chandler was the recipient of a Dragan Bender pass that was clearly in the cylinder, but in that instance, basket interference isn’t a thing. It’s a pass and not a shot because there is no such thing as a shot in an out-of-bounds situation — you cannot score a bucket by inbounding the ball without it touching a player first.
The Suns won that game over Memphis on that play, but I’m guessing not many people in the arena four years later against Los Angeles knew that; there weren’t many people all that interested in that 2017 version of the Suns.
So, back to Tuesday, literally thousands of people are waiting with bated breath on the announcement of whether or not the basket would count and whether or not the Suns would be up 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals or go to Los Angeles tied at a game apiece.
The courtside microphone setup for NBA officials is a new thing. At Phoenix Suns Arena, that mic, when activated by the official, only gets transmitted over the television broadcast. So as the public address announcer, I need to listen to what is said by the official and then relay it to the crowd, all while attempting to curb any personal reaction I may have.
So, Foster, after a lengthy review, announces to the TV audience that Ayton’s basket does indeed count and that there will be 0.7 seconds on the game clock, but nobody in the arena knows that.
Time to make the announcement.
“After video review,” I say, with the crowd, who has been at a fever pitch for the last two and a half hours, now completely hushed.
Then, a pause. And more silence.
Because after Foster seemingly wrapped up his explanation to the television viewers, he paused. I thought that was my cue to start talking.
Foster elaborated more info on the back end, so I had to shut up and listen.
After a three-second delay (which, by the way, seemed like several minutes) I go ahead with the announcement that Ayton’s basket counts and there will be 0.7 seconds on the game clock for the Clippers possession.
The whole place goes bananas.
The Clippers inbound the ball from the backcourt, Paul George can’t get a shot off in time and the Suns celebrate their ninth straight playoff win, a 104-103 victory that leaves them just six wins away from winning their first-ever championship.
For anybody wondering — no that dramatic pause wasn’t planned. I wasn’t channeling my inner-Ryan Seacrest, teasing American Idol viewers into sticking around until after the commercials to see what contestant has been eliminated.
After watching the video of those moments again, I can only say this to the Suns fans in attendance for Game 2: I’m sorry if I added to your anxiety. It was certainly not my intent.
But hey, everything worked out just fine, didn’t it?