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Morning After: What the Suns said about making a statement

The Phoenix Suns are now 3-0 in the Bubble and have a clear drive to finish strong and possibly make the playoffs

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

You know that the Suns are now 3-0 in the Orlando Bubble, halfway to an improbable play-in game for the 8th seed and a first playoff berth in more than a decade.

You know that Devin Booker made another game-winning buzzer beater, the third of his career. Booker has made other back-breaking shots too, but the “at the buzzer to win the game” count is at three. And you may know, thanks to John Voita’s ‘Booker broke twitter’ article that he is now tied with only LeBron James for that many such shots since 2015.

Did you also know that the ‘looter in a riot’ is actually the one leading the Suns to wins with his scoring, not padding his stats in big losses?

The Suns are 17-11 when Booker scores 28+ points, 12-28 in all other games. Looters in a riot would not have that scoring profile. We’re done with that nonsense argument, right?

After the Suns beat the Clippers on Tuesday, Booker had plenty of opportunity to gloat over his prowess. But he did not. All he did was look forward. Here are his answers to a number of questions he received postgame. Notice a pattern?

“Coming into the Bubble, we wanted to make some noise. We wanted to be that under the radar team that works hard, plays hard.”

“We’ve been playing well. We come in with the right approach every day. Coach always says the word approach, since day one that we got here.”

“We didn’t have 8-0 on our mind. That hasn’t been our target. Just coming in and playing the best basketball that we can every night. People say we got the ‘nothing to lose’ mentality but we don’t think about it like that. We have GAMES to lose, games to win.”

“Right now a lot of people are looking at us as the 22nd or 21st team in the Bubble and we’re just here to be here. But that’s not the mentality that we have as a team. We’re here to win. Every time we step out on the floor we’re here to compete and make a name for ourselves.”

“We have end goals for this team. I have personal goals for this team that I want to reach. I want a reputation in this league as being a winner. Through five years I haven’t gotten to that part of my career yet. But I’m gonna work as extremely hard as I can to get there and I feel like we have a really good bunch to do it.”

“I’m not a big celebration guy. But they caught me on the ground so I couldn’t get away from them. The energy these guys bring…the guys that are in the game, the guys that are on the bench, Kelly’s out here going crazy every game… it’s a fun team to be a part of. We’re having fun with it.”

“These are the top teams in the NBA. The schedule’s not easy at all. We know what we’re against. We’re coming in here, we’re not scared of the opportunity, we’re just taking it head on. It’s turned out well for us. We got (5) games left. We’re taking them one at a time and we’re trying to collect the most wins that we can.”

The players are all taking the lead of the coach, Monty Williams. Here’s what Monty had to say about his biggest win as the Phoenix Suns coach.

“Those guys just grew up tonight. (The Clippers) sent everything at us. It’s an amazing feeling, and yet I’m already turning the page. That’s the mentality we have to have.”

“By the time I got to the timeout (after conferring with the coaches first), the players had already talked themselves through the terminology and reads. I thought the shots that (the Clippers) got tonight were tough shots.”

“I’m thankful. To be able to win in this environment is pretty cool.”

Cameron Payne was in the locker room on a different camera when we were with Booker, so he got basically a one-on-one with Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson. Payne played a very short stint in Chicago in his first NBA iteration where he did not quite appreciate what he had and did not try hard enough to stay in the league.

The Suns signed Payne —formerly the 14th overall pick in 2015, but out of the league four years later — off the street just before the Bubble to compete for the backup point guard spot. Likely, the Suns had gotten word of Elie Okobo’s delay in coming to Orlando (still unexplained, but he got there two weeks late) and needed live bodies for practice. Payne came in, and has not looked back.

Payne made a pair of threes again against the Clippers, after making a pair against the Mavericks, to help the Suns to these upsets. Payne works his butt off on defense too, and made some nice dump-off assists to layups at the basket off drives.

“This opportunity means a lot. I kinda feel like this may be my last opportunity. I gotta really show guys that I should be a part of this league.”

“Not being in the NBA is what drove me. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to fight my way, claw my way back in to this thing.”

“Come out there, push the pace, bring a lot of energy and be consistent. [Coach Monty Williams] really wants me to keep my turnovers down. I really appreciate him, I just want to say thank you to him.”

“It’s big for this group of guys that we have. We just have to keep it up, just got to keep being consistent. You win games on the defensive end.”

Deandre Ayton was also in the locker room, taking questions while we were with Booker. Big props to Suns PR guy Jake Withee for carrying our water and asking some questions on our behalf.

Ayton was the second-leading scorer for the Suns on Tuesday, posting 19 points with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He made some pivotal, but largely unnoticed, defensive plays in the 4th quarter to help the Suns win the game.

“I still don’t think we get respect, but I don’t care. We just go out there and play for each other. We stay together in bad times. Kept chipping, kept chipping and it went our way.”

“Locking in. There’s nothing else to do here in the Bubble. Being there for each other. Us building with each other, seeing each other every day. It’s genuine, it’s real.”

“That’s coach’s system: sharing the ball. When we move the ball around, everybody eats.”

There’s your locker room recap in written word! If you’d rather just watch it, here you go.

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