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Monty Williams breaks down Suns’ blowout Game 5 win, keys to closing series against Lakers

The Suns are one win away from eliminating the defending champions

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns blew out the Los Angeles Lakers, 115-85, in Game 5 of their first-round series of the Western Conference playoffs on Tuesday night in Phoenix to take a crucial three games to two advantage.

After leading 29-24 with 46.3 seconds left in the first quarter, the Suns went on a 26-4 run to take a 55-28 lead with 5:29 remaining in the second and did not relent their advantage. They built an edge as large as 36 points in third quarter and did not see it fall below 26 in the second half.

Phoenix was led by starting shooting guard Devin Booker, who had 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting along with seven rebounds and five assists. Booker, who ranked among the top players in the NBA in first-quarter scoring during the regular season, had 18 points in the first to get the Suns off to a hot start.

Backup point guard Cameron Payne followed Booker with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 14 of which came in the first half.

The Suns will look to close out the Lakers in Game 6 on Thursday, which will tip off at 7:30 p.m. MT in Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Here’s what Suns coach Monty Williams said after Tuesday’s Game 5 win.

On the health status of starting point guard Chris Paul, who appeared to re-aggravate his right shoulder contusion in the third quarter:

“He went back and got some treatment. Everything is not up in the air — I don’t want to give an official update on him until I get more information, I don’t have anything right now. But when I talked to him when he came back out, he said he still had his strength and he seems to be OK. But we want to wait until tomorrow after he wakes up and then our medical team can make an assessment, but he told me that he felt like he had his strength and that’s a good thing.”

On the performance of starting shooting guard Devin Booker, who had 33 points in 30 minutes:

“Well, I think our whole team defense helped our offense. To be able to get stops and the way we played as far as force, executing the game plan allowed for our offense to play in flow. We didn’t call a ton of plays, if any, in the first quarter. We were able to just get out and run, and Book was hitting shots and when he’s got it going from every level, he can be hard to stop.”

On the Suns not having a turnover until late in the first half and the fluidity of their execution:

“We had four (turnovers) for the game and I think we had two early in the third. So taking care of the ball against the No. 1 defense in the league is huge, and like I said, when we can get stops and take care of the ball, it gives us a chance to be efficient. But our guard play and (starting forward) Jae (Crowder) on the back side does a really good job of transferring the ball and making plays on the second side. So it’s one of those efforts that you want to bottle up, but when you play that hard and take care of the ball like that, you just want to keep that going as best you can. And we just told the guys, ‘That kind of effort and that kind of defense travels.’ And if we can take care of the ball like that, we can have success on the floor.”

On what enabled Booker’s success in the first quarter:

“It just looked like we were playing faster because we were getting stops. When you’re getting stops and you’re playing in transition, and Chris does a really good job of throwing it ahead to Book. When you’re playing that way with his speed, you don’t see a lot of big guards like Book that have the speed that he has, and his footwork is sound. So he’s able to stop on a dime and get to his spots and raise up and knock down shots. But he was getting to the basket, but I think everything tonight was predicated on how well we played on the defensive end. It just allowed us to play in transition, and that’s when we’re at our best.”

On the performance of backup point guard Cameron Payne, who finished with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting:

“That’s been his role for us all year long. His ability to get out and score the ball — he and Chris are two different types of point guards. Chris can score, but Chris tends to settle us down and facilitate a bit more. Cam is an attacker, a scorer who can pass. So when he gives us that offensive punch off the bench, it allows for Book and (starting forward) Mikal (Bridges), starting center [Deandre Ayton], you have to play them. And it keeps the defense honest when you have your backup point guard come off the bench and score like that. So there’s no let down when he’s scoring like that, and that’s something that we value.”

On preparing his team to close out a playoff series:

“We’re going to talk about that tomorrow. We understand who we’re playing against, they’re the defending champs, we’re going back to their place. We got to be solid when we go back there, and closeout games are really hard. So our guys understand that, Chris and Jae have been in these situations. We’ll lean on their different experiences that I’ve had, (assistant coach) Willie Green, all of our coaches who have been in that situation. But we got to just play the same way. Whether it’s a closeout game or Game 1, our job is to go out and play with the force and the defense and share the ball and not think about anything else but the next right thing. And you can’t get to the closeout game or the closeout moment until you take care of, ‘First things first.’ And for us, that’s just getting ready tomorrow, preparations for the next game. We respect the Lakers and we know they’re going to come out with a great effort.”

On what he thought of the atmosphere in Phoenix with over 16,000 fans in attendance:

“It was cool. I mean, it reminded me of those games that I used to come here and coach against these guys or play against them early in my career. Don’t know what the number was, I don’t know if it was 15- or 16(-000), but it certainly sounded like a packed house tonight and our guys fed off of that, for sure. And when you’re playing that hard and defending like that and you got your crowd behind you, it gives you a little bit more juice. So I’m grateful for the fans that came out tonight, and I can’t reiterate — I’m grateful for the safety that we have here in this arena. Our fans cheer for us but they also cheer for us with a great deal of respect and based on what’s going on around the league, I don’t take that for granted. I’m glad this is a special place to play, but it’s also a place where the opposing team knows they can be safe. And that’s a credit to our fans.”

On Payne’s performance this series and how confident he is in him to deliver if Paul is limited moving forward:

“We’ve talked about it. Thankfully, we haven’t had to go that route. I don’t want to make too many statements about that, but we’re confident in Cam’s ability. But we’re grateful that Chris seems like he’s OK but we’re going until tomorrow to give an official update.”

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