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Monty Williams on Cam Payne status, Suns’ shooting woes in Game 3 loss to Clippers

Phoenix’s starting backcourt combined to shoot 10-of-40

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

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said after his team’s 106-92 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center on Thursday night.

On how he would sum up the game:

“It was a typical playoff, desperation by them. We didn’t play with the desperation necessary to win a game like that consistently, and that’s how I would sum it up. Offensively tonight, we weren’t sound at all. You look at the point totals in the first, third and fourth — they played good defense tonight but we didn’t run our offense the way that we have been running it for most of these playoffs. But they played with a great deal of desperation, 50-50 balls, attacking the offensive glass, attacking the rim. They played hard in every segment of the game. We didn’t play as hard consistently, and so you have to tip your hat to them. They brought it tonight for more of the 48 minutes than we did.”

On his impression of how Suns starting guard Chris Paul played in his return from health and safety protocols:

“Yeah, it was his first game back. You could see it, some flashes of it. I thought I played him too much. He probably got tired but it hurt us when (backup guard) Cam Payne couldn’t come back, so I left Chris out there for a longer stretch. And that’s on me. But I think as he practices more and plays more — he hasn’t done anything in 10 days. So I think he’ll get better, he’ll be much better in the second game from the conditioning standpoint, this next game.”

On what he saw during the third quarter, when the Suns were outscored 34-21:

“They came out in the third quarter and just brought it. Our guys were talking about their level of play in the timeouts, and everybody knew it. We just didn’t match their force, and like I said, you have to give them credit. We have to understand that playing against a team that was going to play with that kind of effort every quarter, and we’ve been pretty good in third quarters, so that was a bit surprising for us. So they threw a punch and now, we got to counter with another punch and make sure we bring the effort and execution into the next game.”

If he has any sense of how Payne’s ankle injury could affect him moving forward:

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

“No, I don’t. We’ll see. He tried to come back and it just wouldn’t allow him to get back out there on the floor. So I’ll get more of an update when I go in the back.”

On starting shooting guard Devin Booker shooting 5-of-21 from the field and what he felt attributed to that:

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

“It’s hard to say, He won’t make excuses about that. There were stretches where, we as a team, the ball just didn’t pop around the gym the way that we’d typically pop it around the gym. But for Book, those kinds of shooting nights don’t happen often. He and Chris both, Chris was probably more conditioning and the first time getting back out there. And there was a lot of attention on Book, a lot of hands on him. So those guys will adjust.”

On how Clippers backup guard Patrick Beverley is affecting Booker’s offense:

“It’s hard to say. Patrick’s a really good defender, we know that. But there were times where Book just missed his shot. I’ll look at the film — he’s physical, for sure. That can wear a guy down. We have to do a much better job of having more balance in our offense. If you look at the point totals, a lot of our stuff came late in the clock. That’s not how we’ve been playing most of the playoffs, so tip your hat to Beverley. He plays really good defense, he’s aggressive. But when I look at the film, I bet you’ll just see Book just missed some shots.”

If he felt like there were things that popped up in Game 3 that hurt the Suns in Game 2:

“Yes. Yeah, we had difficulty in our switches. (Clippers starting forward) Paul (George) had a dunk at the end of the second quarter, we didn’t communicate the ‘red,’ the switch properly. Another example was, we helped off Kennard on a drive. We had the drive under control, we went and helped, kicked it to him, he gets a 3(-pointer). Like, those are things we talk about. So our guys don’t have the excuse of being young anymore. We’ve won playoff series, we know what it takes and now, we got to go out and do it. But we’ll look at the film, we’ll see the things that we didn’t do well and we’ll try to strengthen the things we do well. And come back better in the next game.”

If he felt starting center Deandre Ayton should have been more forceful in calling for the ball offensively, especially since Booker and Paul struggled from the field:

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

“We as a team can do a better job of getting [Ayton] the ball. That’s on me, that’s something that whether we post him up or hit him more as he’s diving to the basket — they were taking him out. I thought we tried to force it a few times, tried to make interior passes when the corners were wide open. But that’s something that we’ll look at and try to fix for the next game.”

On what he’s seeing from the Clippers after falling down 0-2 in a series, which also happened in their first two rounds:

“They play with a great deal of desperation in these situations. Our guys expected it, but I don’t think we dealt with it well. We knew what they were going to do, we knew they were going to come out at halftime with more force and we just didn’t match it. And on the road, you have to exceed. So we’ve watched them for a while, we respect what they do and we’ll be better next game.”

If he talks to Booker when he’s struggling from the field or if he trusts he’ll snap out of his funk:

“Both. I’ll talk to him, we’ll look at the film and see opportunities that either — knock it down or trust your teammate. But I also know that it’s going to come, because he works too hard. And he’s been in these situations, as you alluded to, throughout the playoffs. So we’ll watch the film tomorrow, I’ll sit and talk with him and Chris and try to see opportunities for us to be more efficient on offense. Like I said, I thought the ball stuck too much. We didn’t move it around the gym — when we did, when we touched the paint and moved it to the corner, we got open looks. We didn’t always make it, but they’re putting a lot of hands on him, they’re showing him a lot of bodies, speaking of Book. And guys got to be ready to get plays when he gets off of them.”

If he sensed frustration from starting forward Jae Crowder with the fouls he accumulated:

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

“I think so. But the one thing that we can’t do is allow the officials to mess with our mental stamina. But I’ve seen them pushing off out there. We all see it, that’s not something that anybody would sit in this room and say, ‘They don’t push off to get open.’ And Jae, he’s been frustrated with that, but we got to rise above it.”

On what is harder for the Suns to accomplish without Payne in the second half:

“It’s one game. We’ll re-evaluate how we’re going to attack them, we hope Cam can get back on the floor in the next game. Like I said earlier, it was hard on Chris because I had to leave him out there for a longer stretch. And during that stretch in the third, they made a run, so I left him out there longer. And that was a tough spot for me to put (Suns backup guard) E’Twaun (Moore) in. So not having Cam to spell Chris put us in a bit of a bind, but hopefully he can come back and play in the next game.”

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