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Monty Williams breaks down Suns’ slow third-quarter start, lack of shotmaking in Game 3 loss

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The Suns shot 11-of-29 from 3-point range but did not find a rhythm until it was too late

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said following his team’s 109-95 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs at Staples Center on Thursday night.

On what he saw out of starting point guard Chris Paul and the Lakers’ third-quarter run to give them a double-digit lead:

“I thought he was laboring a little bit, and then he fell and I didn’t know if he got hit in the personal area or if he fell on his shoulder. He looked like he was holding it the way he was the other night, and then (backup point guard) Cam (Payne) came in and gave us a lot of energy and juice and shotmaking. So I just decided to go with that group. And then as far as the game, the last five minutes of the third and most of the third, we lost a great deal. We didn’t come out with the energy we needed to to start the third, and the last five minutes, it hurt us. We got smashed on the boards tonight. They had 15 offensive rebounds, they got to the line. You look at the shooting percentages, neither team shot the lights out of the ball. But they had 58 points in the paint, and there was a segment in the second half where it was just paint drive after paint drive and we didn’t show a ton of resistance. And then in that last eight, nine minutes of the game before all the emotional stuff took over, I thought we started to play a little bit better but give them credit. They were physical the whole night, they attacked the paint the whole night. We just didn’t give them a ton of resistance in the paint.”

On encouraging his team without Paul on the floor:

“We have a style of play that we try to implement no matter who’s on the floor. Now granted, it’s Chris and he’s been the architect all year long. But I thought Cam Payne came in and did some really nice things from shotmaking to attacking the paint. Our defense in the second half, we gave up 66 points. That’s a lot of points, and most of it was in the paint. So that was the deal, whether Chris is out there or not, we got to play better defense than we did in the second half.”

On what contributed to the Suns having a slow start in the third quarter:

“We didn’t start well. It’s two games in a row we didn’t start third quarters well, executing our stuff and then we allowed just so many paint touches. (Lakers forward) LeBron (James) was in the paint, it seemed like the whole third quarter. Every time he was in the game, whether it was transition or the sideline pick-and-roll, there wasn’t a ton of resistance. We gave up two 30-point quarters back-to-back in the second half. Like, that’s not something we’ve done all season long is consistently allow teams to just run the same play and get to the basket. We just didn’t show, I’ve said it already, a ton of resistance in the paint.”

On how necessary it will be for starting forward Jae Crowder and others to hit perimeter shots to win this series:

“It’s a bunch of our guys who aren’t shooting well. (Backup forward) Cam Johnson was 1-for-6, we’re not getting (starting forward) Mikal (Bridges) enough shots. It’s important to space the floor for (starting shooting guard) [Devin Booker], Chris and (starting center) [Deandre Ayton] to have those guys making shots. So we’re due, that’s the part I’m looking forward to is we’re due to have a breakout game shooting the ball.”

On Booker shooting 6-of-19 from the field and what he credits that to:

“Well, they’ve been the No. 1 defense in the league all year long. So when you have two 30-point games and play the way he’s played, they’re going to try to do some things to take him out. He missed some shots tonight but they were trying to speed him up and they ran two guys at him all night long. That’s a tough way to play. Even when we weren’t in pick-and-roll, there was always someone there at the rim or in the paint to cut him off. If we’re not making shots around him, then it just makes it tougher on him. He’ll bounce back.”

If the Suns discussed the chippy play at the end of the game, when Booker and Crowder were ejected:

“We talked about it all season long. The way we’ve played, some of the press that we’ve gotten, when we play well, teams are going to try to get under our skin, and we have to be able to whether that. That doesn’t mean you’re a punk or a doormat, but we have to consistently try to stay in the game, try to stay in our gameplan. And it’s tough at times, when you feel like you’re being fouled or somebody’s doing something that you don’t think is right. But we’ve shown that when we can stay steady with our poise and emotions, we can weather that. Tonight, I didn’t think we did it that well. It wasn’t a close game but we got it in reach and in those moments, all of our guys know we have to be better and we talked about it. And our guys agree.”

On what he tells Paul about working through his injury:

“I know how bad he wants to win but at the end of the day, we get paid to do what we do. He’s got a beautiful wife and children, he has a Hall-of-Fame career. He’s handled these things well, and I don’t doubt that Chris will come through stronger and better. But what we’re going through right now is not the worst thing in the world. Now, as it relates to his career and legacy, it is hard, and I get that. To be where he is and how he’s played for us and not be able to play at the highest level, that’s hard. But Chris is mentally strong, he’ll be able to handle it. He’ll be able to help us the right way.”

If the chippy play was a result of the Suns’ frustrations of how they’re playing or something the Lakers are doing:

“I think a combination of their physical style is for sure. They get after teams, but I thought our lack of shotmaking messed with us early. We just couldn’t make shots, and I thought that frustrated us a bit. That happens to every team, and they physically get after you. They killed us on the boards, they attacked the paint. Once I see the film, I’ll probably come up with three more things. So it’s not anything we haven’t dealt with and it’s not anything we haven’t backed down from. So it’s a series, it’s 2-1. We have a lot of basketball left to play and we can learn from this.”

If he likes the shots the Suns are getting and if their struggles are related to Paul’s injury:

“From the eye test, I haven’t seen the game yet, but it seems like we’re getting relatively good shots, open shots. Book’s shots are under duress but I think the rest of our guys are getting good shots, and it could be a byproduct of their defense and not having Chris be what we normally expect from Chris and seeing on a night-in, night-out basis. That can affect us but all that doesn’t affect your defense. We’re a better defensive team than we showed in the second half, and in the second quarter, we held them to 16 points but we only scored 12. So the shotmaking, as coach (and ESPN/ABC NBA announcer Jeff) Van Gundy would say, ‘It’s a make or miss league.’ You have to be able to knock down shots so you can set your defense. And when you have a set defense, you’re much better.”