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Booker, Ayton and Bridges break down Suns’ second-half run, fan energy in win over Nuggets

All five of the Suns’ starters scored in double figures, with four (Chris Paul, Booker, Ayton and Bridges) exceeding 20 points

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

Here is what Phoenix Suns starting shooting guard Devin Booker, center Deandre Ayton and forward Mikal Bridges said after their team’s 122-105 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Monday night.

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Booker

On Suns coach Monty Williams finishing second in NBA Coach of the Year voting and if he thought he should have won the award:

“Obviously. I’ve seen that pregame. No disrespect to (New York Knicks coach) [Tom Thibodeau] or any other coach, (Utah Jazz coach) Quin (Snyder). But you know my answer. Monty has came in here and shifted the culture tremendously, and I’ve seen the bottom. And once he got here, that energy changed. The gym changed, personnel changed, and he developed a culture that we all bought into and love. And I always say it every day: The culture is something that makes coming to work every day fun, and that started with coach Monty. So he’s definitely deserving of it, I think when the coaches voted themselves that they put him as Coach of the Year. So kind of similar to when the players voted me into the All-Star (Game) and other people come in and make the decision. But coach Monty is our Coach of the Year.”

His thoughts on the Suns’ offensive execution:

“I think we cleaned it up in the second half, starting with stops. They make it tough on you, they put length on you, they have (Denver Nuggets center Nikola) Jokic up on a lot of ball screens. So we just try to get off and move it quick and move the ball faster than the defense can move. I think we got some good, open shots in the second half that opened up the game for us.”

On the boost that starting point guard Chris Paul gave the Suns in the second half with 10 consecutive fourth-quarter points and scoring or assisting on 20 of Phoenix’s 34 points in the final period:

“A big one. We felt that energy, we felt the passion behind it and he just made plays. Like you said, we know his scoring ability but getting everybody else involved. That’s been the story of the season for us, following him in that regard. So that was a big push for us, that was a big momentum swing that I think we took and ran with and widened the gap, widened the margin.”

On what his movement off the ball was opening for his teammates and how he tried to take advantage of the space he created when he didn’t have the ball in his hands:

“I wouldn’t even say me, I would say (Phoenix Suns starting center) Deandre (Ayton), which you don’t get credit for but rolling hard to the rim and opening up that back-side corner, forcing people to tag. Also, getting out and sprinting the floor in transition. I was telling him after the game, there was one time I took off, I was going full speed and I looked to my right and DA is passing me. I’m running as fast as I can, so that opens up a lot of opportunities for all of us. And he deserves the credit for that, for rolling, making, forcing somebody to tag and opening up a wide open shot.”

On his impression of what changed the game for the Suns in the third quarter and how they had four starters finish with over 20 points:

“Yeah, it’s team basketball, that’s what the playoffs is. Teams aren’t going to let your first, second and third option get it going every night. They try to take that away and make the other guys do it, and I think that benefits us with the talent that we have on this team, the depth that we have on this team and just the playmaking ability of everybody. Just being able to dribble, pass and shoot. And I know it sounds simple, but when everybody can do that on the court, it opens up opportunities for everybody.”

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton

On what he felt like the Suns did defensively to force Jokic out of rhythm with 22 points on 23 shots:

“Playing our coverages, studying team tendencies and what they like. And we just stuck to the game plan and never stopped what we thought and what we went over. Just kept pursuing, just kept — even when they scored, we just kept our discipline and did what we have to do on our coverages.”

On what contributed to the Suns’ 42-14 run that spanned from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth:

“Running, just running. Just competing and running, that was basically it in that burst. Just competing and running and sharing the ball. One thing we do, we share the ball a lot, keep defenses moving.”

On Paul’s impact in the fourth quarter:

“It’s in his hands, man. He’s made us comfortable — not comfortable in that way, but just knowing that he got it. Stuff like that, [Paul] himself, who’s been in situations like this. We know he’s handling his business.”

On how much pride he takes in his rim-running:

“Teams don’t want to see me dunking every time. So what I do is just run, man. Run to create offense for my teammates. If they don’t stop the big rolling to the rim, there’s shooters open. So that’s the thing we always go over — once that ball is in the air, we get the ball, we’re out. So that’s a thing me and Book go over, running. So it was funny seeing him, me right next to him while we’re running in transition. He got that deep 3(-pointer), 4-point play.”

On Jokic saying Ayton had previously given him troubles and his keys while defending him:

“He said that? That’s lit. I love playing against Jokic, man. That’s the MVP of our league. He has so much, he has a lot to cover. The dude can do anything so it’s just, that’s just the modern center right there. A dude who you have to watch out for drives, he can shoot, he can do everything. He can playmake for his teammates. Just coming in every day, learning what he loves to do and just compete, man. One day, he could be that dude on film and one day, he won’t be that dude on film when you’re watching everything he does. So you just got to keep competing and just staying locked in.”

On what Paul has helped him add to his weight room routine:

“Like I said, I think the first weeks he got here — everything he do and does is contagious, the way how he approaches the game. So seeing C who’s been in the league for so many years in the weight room, you’re going to have to pick it up. So yeah, I be in the weight room because of C. Just seeing he always doing something, always something he’s doing in the weight room. So I started to pick it up, just working on my body itself. Seeing it’s working in the process of doing all that. So just working on my game, sharpening my iron. So it’s fun having a leader like that, showing by example and just seeing the results. It’s lit.”

On what allows Williams to connect with his players:

“He doesn’t approach you as an NBA coach, head coach. He approaches you more like a friend, some say father figure. He teaches you so many things away from basketball, and you create this bond and chemistry where you catch yourself coming to him for advice about anything. And that type of stuff builds on the court, and now you want to play as hard as you can for this organization. So that’s the type of thing it is.”

On the impact of starting forward Mikal Bridges in the third quarter and that of the Suns fans in the game:

“I’d say the fans is the one making us, they helping us play like this man. Coming out every night and they’ve shown the support they have. I swear, I’m seeing less and less seats — I don’t even think I’ve seen seats today, available seats. So that was a great thing. That was the loudest game, to be honest, that I’ve ever played in. Today was the loudest game. And Mikal, Mikal is something else. He’s, [as known as], ‘The Warden.’ That dude has sacrificed a lot, he plays hard and that’s just a great teammate to have. He’s a guy who listens, and he’s guarding the best player [expletive] near every night. The fastest player, so you just got to give all the credit to him, especially tonight, knocking down open shots and making good plays.”

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mikal Bridges

On what allowed him to break out offensively:

“Just teammates finding me, and my coaches just telling me to mix it up a little bit, ‘You’ll have everything you want just shooting and driving.’ So they put that on my mind, just to mix it up a little bit and just being aggressive. My teammates were finding me.”

On what keyed the Suns’ runs in the third and fourth quarter:

“Just getting stops, exactly what coach staff. We adjusted at half, we weren’t doing what we were doing, we had to play harder and follow our game plan. And once we started doing that, getting stops, the other ends opens up for everybody and we got aggressive on that end. So our defense led to our offense, getting stops and getting buckets.”

On what’s different about how the Suns have to defend the Nuggets versus the Lakers:

“It’s tough, because it’s just different. They play through Jokic, who is a big man. So just a little bit different, they have a lot of guys that can shoot and cut, a lot more spacing. I think (with) the Lakers, we packed the paint a little bit more and now, it’s kind of being there and they got shooters, so you got to rely on both. So just a different feel, we adjusted better and just got to keep getting better.”

On the Suns’ crowd and what he’d like his team to continue in Game 2:

“Yeah, the crowd is amazing man. It gets us going no matter what. Even if we’re down, make one shot, they get loud and put the pressure on them. They’re great. In Game 2, we’re going to figure out tomorrow what we got to do better. We just got to keep playing hard, keep playing our way.”

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