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Monty Williams pleased with Suns’ poise without Chris Paul in Game 1 win over Clippers

The Suns gave up a 16-2 run in the third quarter but responded to win their first game against Los Angeles.

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said after his team’s 120-114 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Suns Arena.

On the effort of starting shooting guard Devin Booker and how he appeared to mirror two of his favorite players, former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Suns starting point guard Chris Paul, during the game:

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

“I don’t know too much about channeling, but I just thought he managed the game well knowing that Chris wasn’t on the floor. I just saw his will, Devin Booker’s will tonight. I’m sure he learned a ton from his time with Kobe and being with Chris for a season, it certainly helped him having the kind of stamina that he had tonight. To play that many minutes against a really good team, his ability, as I said, to manage the game. He made the right plays tonight, and I thought when we started playing fast, he started to attack and get to the paint. Everything opened up for us, and then he hit some shots. But that’s who Book is, he’s been waiting for this moment, these moments for a long, long time. So maybe that’s the Kobe part of it and the Chris Paul part. But I just think it’s who he is.”

On the conversations he had with Booker as he played 44 minutes:

“I just felt like with the week off, he was able to recover from the last series. Devin’s a well-conditioned athlete, he’s one of those high-energy guys that I’ve been around. They just seem to go and go and go. I thought he got a little winded in the fourth, and something happened — he got the ball and he took off like he wasn’t even tired. So I talked to him in the huddle, and he’s like, ‘Coach, I’m good. I’m not tired.’ And I just felt like we needed him on the floor in those moments, especially not having Chris. I’m always in my mind like, ‘We have to manage the game.’ And we only had seven turnovers, that speaks to him managing the game tonight, finding guys and knocking down shots. But he’s got a will, he’s well-conditioned and he works at it.”

On Booker only having two turnovers compared to 11 assists:

“I think a lot of it is his understanding of our offense and where guys are going to be. That always helps, and then the spacing, guys being in extreme corners and all the stuff we try to work on. But it was just him, he was making the right passes tonight. When he gets downhill, he knows where the reads are. He can either get to the basket or try to find (Suns starting center) [Deandre Ayton] in the pocket. I’d love to give you a better answer than that, I just think he was really good tonight as far as taking care of the ball.”

If he liked the shot attempts the Suns generated on the Clippers:

“Yeah, the first quarter, neither team scored that much. But I thought we were just kind of in a wrestling match. And in the second and third, we started to play more point-five. We were a lot better on the second side in the second and third quarter. Once there was a primary action and then we swung it and we played, I thought that was something that could help us. Any time in this league when you can touch the paint with a dribble, you’re either getting to the rim or finding guys on the back side. That’s how we want to play. But a lot of it has to do with DA’s ability to put pressure on the rim when we do swing it. But they’re a good defensive team — they switch, they’re physical, they pack the paint. (Clippers center Ivica) Zubac is a load down there, it’s like hard to drive when he’s in the paint because he’s so doggone big. And then they bring Cousins in the game, and he’s the same. And so the more we can play on the second side and play faster, it may help us.”

On Ayton’s effectiveness against the Clippers’ smaller lineup:

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

“He’s athletic, for sure. He can move his feet. I thought the guys around him tonight helped him get in spots where he didn’t have to help as much. We don’t have the answer to that — we just try our best to put DA in a position where he’s not rotating. That’s typically what ends up happening to bigs, so I thought (Suns starting forward) Jae (Crowder) was a huge facilitator of that tonight, making sure that DA was in the right spots. You want to try to keep your bigs at the rim, not just for blocking shots, but for rebounding purposes. We gave up too many corner threes though. We were helping off the corner and giving up threes, and that’s something that happened to a number of our guys tonight. And with a team like this that shot the ball the way they did this year, we can’t do that.”

If he talked to Paul after the game:

“Nah, the guys had him on FaceTime in the locker room. We do that whenever somebody’s not around, we want to make sure they’re a part of the locker room and anything that we do. He was excited, for sure.”

On Booker’s 18-point third quarter while trading shots with Clippers starting forward Paul George, who had 16 points in the period:

“I liked the way Devin did it. He didn’t inject himself into the game, he just did it out of what we do. There are times where a guy scores, and you just want to go grab the ball and jack up a shot. I thought the way Devin did it tonight was within our scheme and what we do. Paul, that’s who he is. He’s one of the rare guys that can make shots off the dribble like that. He makes tough shots, like I said in the pregame, I saw him do it in his workouts with the USA team. Those guys would play 1-on-1 all the time and work on stuff like that. I think the poise of our team was important in that moment. When a guy’s making shots like that, it’s so easy to become deflated. I thought we got the ball in, went right back down the floor and played in point-five and didn’t let it mess with us too much.”

On the Suns maintaining spacing in the halfcourt, aiding their offensive ball movement:

“We drill stuff on a daily basis, but I think just having Jae and Chris and (backup guards) E’Twaun (Moore) and Langston (Galloway) has really helped our young guys grow up, teaching those guys the nuances and why you have to be in the corner and what you try to do when there’s a blitz or hit on the ball. I thought (backup forward) Cam (Johnson) and (starting forward) Mikal (Bridges) had big time awareness tonight. A lot of times when you’re not getting the ball, you want to creep out of that corner where so people can see you and get a shot. Those guys had a great deal of mental stamina, and it paid off down the stretch. Mikal hits a big 3(-pointer) because he was in the corner. Cam had a wide open one, he missed, but I thought we got quality shots because of the spacing tonight.”

On the Suns’ mid-range effectiveness in the game, especially Booker:

“We tell guys to shoot the shots they’re confident taking. I don’t care if you shoot the mid-range shot. In my opinion, if you play good defense, it covers for taking twos. And we have guys that can make those shots — Devin, Chris, Mikal. That’s a shot that those guys can knock down. Any time you can score, whether it’s a two or a three, it allows you to set your defense. That’s how I view it. I’d rather guys take shots they’re confident (in), and everybody’s trying to take away the 3-ball. So I think you better be prepared to knock down twos.”

On the Suns’ confidence by winning eight straight games and if there’s an update on Paul:

“Like I’ve said, to your first question, we hadn’t really paid attention. But when you say it, you’re grateful for it, obviously. Any time you can get a win in the regular season, you feel like you’ve come up with a cure for something. To win games in the playoffs, especially from where we came from, is huge for us. But we don’t talk about it because we’re not satisfied. We always have a, ‘Get to,’ not a, ‘Got to,’ mentality. We get to play this game and when we win, we also talk about gratitude. And when you think of the things that go into winning, and then we try to get better. As far as Chris is concerned, it’s just a day-to-day thing with him right now. I probably drive the people here in town crazy with that, but that’s the way it is. We’re hopeful that any day now, we hear that he can ramp up and get back with us. But right now, he’s in protocols.”

On the trust he noticed from his team as it assisted 31 of 49 made shots:

“We had to. There was no other way to play the game. That’s who we are, but we had to raise the level of trust because we didn’t have Chris. Chris is the guy who manages the game, orchestrates a lot of what we do. So when we take that guy off the floor, you have to have that much more trust. I think it’s going to help us when we get Chris back. And so that’s how I saw it, I saw a lot of guys encouraging (guard) Cam Payne tonight. I thought the spacing was great, that’s relative to trust. And defensively, when we can get stops like that and get out and run and score, that’s the biggest trust-builder in the world, is when you can score.”

On the performance of Johnson off the bench and Bridges:

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

“Cam had some shots from the corner, he had a couple of curls to the basket. And that’s the one thing that he does that he doesn’t get enough credit for — his ability to finish, whether it’s with a dunk or with a layup. Cam can play fast and controlled, and I thought Mikal had great patience tonight. He didn’t get a ton of looks tonight but when they came to him late, he was ready. The 3 he got in the corner, and then I think they blitzed Book and he was able to catch it and go. There was some indecision whether or not they were going to come to the rim or steal out to the 3, and he just kept going and dunked the ball. That’s something we work on, but that’s just him making a read and a great play for his team.”

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