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Postgame report: Booker, Crowder and Payne recap Suns’ resiliency to even first-round series

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Phoenix had stretches in which it looked like the team it had been throughout the regular season

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns starting shooting guard Devin Booker, forward Jae Crowder and backup point guard Cameron Payne said after their team’s 100-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday afternoon.

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Booker

On what it was like to see Suns starting point guard Chris Paul get a rhythm in the game:

“I mean, we knew it was coming with time. If it’s nothing structurally damaged, we knew that he needed some time. So I think that’s what makes this win even bigger for us. But just having Chris out there, him being a threat, him making plays for everybody and feeling more healthy is what we’ve been doing all year. So that’s what we’re accustomed to, that’s what we’ve been used to. And he’s leading us all the way through, so I’m happy to see him getting better, getting healthier by the second.”

On how Paul inspires him and how he felt the Suns responded overall in Game 4 to back-to-back losses against the Lakers:

“I’m proud of our team. We’ve had two days off and we’ve spent both days in the gym just decompressing and having conversation and not taking it too serious, trying to keep our gym the same as it’s been during the regular season, and I think that was really important for us. Understanding that it’s called a series for a reason. Every game has its own different personality, I think there’s something to be said about the highs and lows throughout. There’s going to be emotional plays, there’s going to be arguing, there’s going to be a lot of extra to it. But just having a quick memory, getting over your last loss and moving on to the next game. Proud of our team for a lot of us, this being our first experience out there, having the mental ability to do that.”

On how the results of this game can carry over to Game 5 and receiving more offensive production from starting forwards Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder, among others:

“That’s what you need. It’s the playoffs, you have to play well as a team to win. I think teams know your plays, they know what you’ve done all year, they know your first, second and third option. So it just comes down to being able to play and having the correct spacing and executing. Them guys still have had confidence, and same with myself. I haven’t shot the ball like I wanted but you move on to the next play and you understand what the goal is, and that’s to win the game. No matter how the shots are going, your next shot is the most important one, and Jae and Mikal stepped up big in that regard today.”

On what he felt like the Suns did well defensively, forcing 15 Laker turnovers:

“I think we just played without fouling. The past couple games, there’s been some calls that slowed down our game. If you’re taking it out from the free-throw (line) every possession, it gives them a chance to set their defense. So just playing without fouling, getting the ball out and playing in transition, like we’ve been playing most of the year.”

On what was going through his mind early in the second quarter, when the Lakers built a double-digit lead:

“Win the game. That’s on my mind the whole, entire game, and understanding it’s a long game. Understanding it’s the playoffs and it’s very emotional. But you can see when the lead gets to five to 10 either way, a lot of emotions come out. But just stay level, that’s what we’ve been doing the whole season. There’s four quarters for a reason, no game has ever ended at halftime. And just having an understanding that, the next-play mentality and just control what you can control with the officials and try not to put too much energy to them in that regard and move to the next play.”

On his sense of the mental toll this series has taken on Paul:

“I mean, it’s contagious. Even when the injury first happened, seeing him on the ground and seeing in the emotion in his face, hearing the emotion in his voice, you understand somebody that’s put in countless numbers of hours into his craft to perform at this time and at this level. For something that he can’t control to be holding him back, I know that’s been bothering him. So just see him progress every day, see his mental, his energy clean up. And today, I think every second or every minute, it’s getting better.”

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jae Crowder

On his individual response from his team’s game Game 3 loss, in which he was ejected, and his double-digit scoring outing that included a 3-pointer to give the Suns a 10-point lead in the final two minutes on Sunday:

“Everything’s been a little off-kilter here because of our point guard (Paul), honestly. It’s not an excuse, that’s just us having to adjust on the fly, in a sense. My shots and things are coming different, our offense is clicking different when he’s not on the court. So we have to adjust and be prepared to play without him, even though we want him to play very badly, because you see what he can do. But it’s just a matter of adjusting. I’ve been here before, I’ve been in slumps before and I just stay even-keeled. Lean on my teammates and that’s what I want to be for my teammates, someone they can lean on when things get tough. And my teammates were there for me throughout the first few games, and just got to stay even-keeled throughout this whole thing because it’s a long series.”

On the Suns’ response as a team:

“That’s what we have to do. Obviously, we had spurts there in the second half of last game that we took from that and just tried to amplify it for the whole game. We’re just trying to do what we do on both ends of the court and play free, but at the same time, have a game plan behind it. And I think we executed the game plan well and played together, and we responded well. When those guys went on runs, I felt like we responded the right way. And that’s what it’s all about.”

On comments that the Suns are a dirty team and if he feels like the team needs to defend itself:

“No, I don’t feel like we need to respond to it. They have an opinion, that’s their opinion, it is what it is. Obviously, we’re playing the game to win the game. We’re not trying to hurt anyone or do anything like that. But it’s a physical style of play, it’s a physical brand of basketball that both teams are imposing their will on. So we’re not complaining when they do stuff to us, so just trying to play basketball at the end of the day. Trying to keep it clean and play basketball, because we know playing dirty and whatever they think we’re playing is not going to get us wins at the end of the day.”

On the emotional of impact of seeing Paul look better physically:

“I mean, everything clicks a little better with ‘3’ (Paul’s number) being on the court and ‘3’ being himself. That’s vocally, that’s him being vocal with our units. That’s him making plays with the ball in his hands, and I feel like we feed off of that. Obviously, I feel like he’s a big part of the puzzle like I’ve been saying all year, he’s a key part of our puzzle. So it’s a little challenge when we don’t have him doing the things that he normally does, so it is what it is. We made it to this point. Hopefully, he’s got a few days to get home tonight, get some treatment and get ready for Game 5. It’s definitely key that he’s out there, monumental for our unit and for our team.”

On what he focused on in the last two days to help snap himself out of his shooting slump:

“I can’t really say I did anything different in these last two days to snap out of a shooting slump. I’m just embracing a little failure. We go through it a lot, just embrace it and try to come out of it on top and just, that’s only been working. So I just put a little bit of work in and just trust your work. That’s all I can say I’ve been doing.”

On the emphasis on playing in transition, which has contributed to the Suns’ two wins in this series:

“We talk about it because the only way you can play like that, the only way you can get out and run and play fast and share the ball and move is you get stops. You can’t do it by taking it out of the net every other possession so we got to just get stops so we can get out and run. That helps our offense, that helps on both ends of the court. And obviously, even in times when it gets tough, we still got to get out and run and play for one another and make plays for one another. Because that’s how our offense clicks, that’s how we all click together and gel together.

“You got to get stops to do that. And I think as we continue to do that, we have a chance to continue to get out and run and make plays for each other on the offensive end.”

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Payne

On the performance of Paul:

“He was big time. Like I said before, the game is a lot easier when he’s out there. We’re a much better team. I mean, he’s been the quarterback the whole season, so it’s always a blessing to have him out there with us. He shot the ball, that was a plus. He was able to find people, that was a plus. So it was just great to have him out there with us tonight.”

If he felt like the Suns played like they normally did in the regular season:

“For sure. We played fast and like I preach all the time, we need to play Phoenix Suns basketball. We did that today and we got a win. We got to keep playing that way.”

On a pregame conversation he shared with Paul that was shown by ABC’s broadcast:

“I don’t know, I can’t really say that besides the fact he said, ‘I’m in tonight and I feel good.’ So that’s really about all he said, I ain’t going to go into details about it.”

On the Suns’ biggest keys to their defensive success in the game:

“We crashed the glass, we kept them off the (free-throw) line. I mean, we kind of packed the paint in today, kept them off the offensive glass. I mean, they’ve been beating us up on the offensive glass. It seems like whoever wins the offensive rebound battle kind of wins, whoever get the most free throws kind of wins. So we knew we had to make them shoot threes and pack the paint. Just had to keep them out of the paint tonight.”

On the Suns having much better energy out of halftime than their previous two games:

“Before the game, like you said, we wasn’t doing too well coming in the half. That was one of our keys, we got to be ready to play coming into halftime because the Lakers have been doing a good job coming in the third quarter, getting on a run. So today, one of our keys was, ‘Be ready at the beginning of the third quarter.’ We got ahead first, we can’t keep getting hit first. So we came out and did what we was supposed to do.”

On what it was like to see Suns starting center Deandre Ayton rolling to the rim hard in the game:

“Oh, fantastic. It was great. Whenever DA gets going, it opens up the game for the guards. So I mean, the fact that he rolls hard every time, it helps everyone out there on the court. He’s been rolling all series, just getting behind the defenders in the pick-and-roll. I’m pretty sure he’s going to keep doing that because that’s where he’s been eating, keep rolling hard and we’re going to find him. [Paul] does a great job finding him. I’m trying to get better, but he does a fantastic job finding him and I’m just trying to learn. DA has been playing big, and he got to keep going.”