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Monty Williams on Suns’ ‘relentless’ defensive efforts, Paul efficiency in blowout Game 2 win

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The Suns’ first-half defensive efforts allowed them to break out for a runaway victory in the second

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

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said after his team’s 123-98 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Wednesday night.

His thoughts on how the game progressed as it went on:

“I just thought it was one of our better defensive halves of the year against a really good offensive team. We just were relentless with our effort, our coverages, communication. It was pretty good. There were a few breakdowns but the guys knew what the breakdowns were right when they happened. Just thought our defense carried us the whole night. When we started knocking down shots in the third, we had two big quarters in the second half. But it was really balanced tonight, the scoring. (Starting point guard) Chris (Paul) had 15 assists but across the board, we got contributions from everyone. But it was just the effort and will that I saw out there on the floor tonight, and that travels. And we’re going to need that when we go to play against these guys in a couple of days.”

On when he felt like the Suns were locked into their keys defensively:

“We always try to come to the gym in the morning with a great deal of focus, and the guys were talking about everything that we had reiterated yesterday. They were talking about it this morning in our walkthrough, and I think when you see the communication on the floor and you can see guys pointing to places where they need to be, that’s a good sign. I thought the play that (backup forward) Torrey (Craig) made in transition, where he ran down — I forget who shot the ball — but tried to shoot a jump shot at the free-throw line and Torrey blocked it. That’s a sign that we’re pretty locked in on that end of the floor. So there were so many plays that happened tonight, and it’s hard to pick out one, but that one sticks out in my mind.”

On all of the Suns’ starters scoring in double figures for the second straight game and the group’s continuity while playing together more than any starting unit in the league:

“It’s hard to point out one thing. I think it’s an unselfish group, they’re willing to make plays for each other. We share the ball, that’s one of our DNA. And it helps to play together for a long period of time. I mean, we don’t have a lot of the experience that a lot of the playoff teams have but we had this year to gel, and we’ve had a lot of close games at home and on the road, so that helps. But I think having (starting forward) Mikal (Bridges) and (starting center) [Deandre Ayton] and (starting shooting guard) [Devin Booker] together in our system for two years certainly speeds up that process, and (starting forward) Jae (Crowder) and Chris, those guys can pretty much play with anybody.”

On how much the Suns’ plays with additional efforts excite him:

“I mean, I don’t get excited much so I just like it when we make plays like that. We’ve just talked about being relentless in everything that we do and moving on to the next play. We always say, ‘Do the next right thing.’ So if you miss a shot or make a mistake, sprint and turn and go down and try to make a play for the team. But that’s the relentless force that we feel like travels. You can take that on the road, the effort that all of our guys showed tonight and we understand it’s a long series, we won two games. We can’t get happy on the farm, we got to get back into the gym tomorrow, look at the film and see what we can do better.”

More on his thoughts on Paul’s performance:

“He manages games better than anybody that I’ve ever been around. He just understands once he gets an idea of the offense and the guys he’s playing with, he has the ability to use his talents to make everybody else better, and then he knows when to take over in moments. Guys have to make shots, but Chris is one of the rare guards that can put passes right where they need to be so guys are more effective when they catch the ball. And his ability to take care of the ball, even when he has it a lot, it’s not something I take for granted, our team doesn’t take it for granted. It’s why he’s been successful everywhere he’s been.”

On Ayton picking up two early fouls and not accruing any more the rest of the way:

“A huge growth moment for him. He was pretty frustrated when he picked up the two. He did a really good job of getting his emotions back to a balanced place, and then when we brought him back in, he was able to be effective without fouling. He moved his feet, he had his hands up in the air and he did a really good job of being aware of his personal foul situation. That’s a growth moment for him, for sure. And to do that on that stage, and we’re going to need him to have that kind of awareness when we go on the road. So I’m sure that Chris and Jae and Devin and our older guys were in his ear, and then I talked to him about just, ‘Keep your emotions intact. I get it’s frustrating when you want to play and you pick up two quick ones like that.’ But I thought he did a really good job of coming back in the game and being really effective on both ends of the floor without picking up a foul.”

On how he would describe the level of basketball his team is playing right now:

“I mean, we’re just trying to play the right way and for each other. We try to play hard every single night, that’s who we are, that’s our DNA. Our guys share the ball. I think the thing that’s really cool to watch is guys making plays for each other. This is playoff basketball and that’s how we have to play for us to be successful. We know if we play hard, share the ball and defend, we give ourselves a chance to win. I’m grateful for getting two wins at home, now we got to get ready for a tough challenge on the road.”

On what contributed to the Suns’ high level of execution offensively:

“I think it’s also setting a screen for your teammate to get them open. It’s also sprinting back in transition so that someone doesn’t have to guard your man and their man. Those are things that we talk about, playing the right way. It’s not just offense and making the right pass, it has a lot to do with boxing out so that we can get the rebound after playing defense hard for 14, 15 seconds. So we try to do the best we can in that regard and as I’ve said before, we have guys who are unselfish and want to play for each other.”

If he surprised by Paul’s production at his age:

“I would never doubt Chris. His ability to manage the team, his track record has success all over it. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been successful. He works his tail off, so yeah, he’s 36 years old but he’s doing a lot of stuff off the floor so that he can be effective on the floor, from diet to the weight room to all the people that work on his body. And he’s a mentally tough human being, so I’m just grateful that I get to be around him and all of our guys. With all that being said, we have a lot more work to do. And I’m sure if he were sitting right here, he’d say the same thing. We won two games, we got to get ready for a tough game the next time we step on the floor.”