Before Game 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night, Phoenix Suns starting shooting guard Devin Booker said his team needed to play with more urgency, something from their first game on the road in two of their previous three series.
During losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers in Game 3 of those respective rounds, the Suns fell by 14 points each time, a product of big runs they were unable to respond to. But more than that, it was due to what their players said was a lack of effort against opposing teams on their home court.
If Phoenix could win its first road game against the Bucks and take a commanding 3-0 series lead, it would put it in an almost certain position to win its first NBA championship. But it was not meant to be.
The Suns were blasted by the Bucks, 120-100, in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, their worst defeat since a 135-103 drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks on May 5. Phoenix now leads the series two games to one ahead of Game 4 on Wednesday in Milwaukee at 6 p.m. PT.
Booker, who had 31 points on 12-of-25 shooting in Game 2 on Thursday, struggled immensely with a 10-point outing on 3-of-14 shooting. It was his second-lowest scoring output of the season, — he had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in a 111-86 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 29, 2020 — lowest shooting percentage of the season and just the ninth time in the last four seasons that he has scored 10 or fewer points.
After the game, Suns coach Monty Williams said he is confident that Booker will bounce back.
“He missed some shots, so that’s going to happen,” Williams said. “He’s been in this situation before, as you guys alluded to. When you get to the Finals, it means you’ve been in a number of situations. So this is nothing new to us anymore. He’ll bounce back.”
Williams was observed by those in attendance with his arm around Booker late in the game, encouraging him after a performance in which he played just 29 minutes.
“Just talking to him about the game, the kind of force we have to play with,” Williams said. “Just normal stuff. This is one of those games that you typically, in NBA speak, say flush it. But you can’t in the Finals. We got to watch the film and learn and get back to playing our kind of basketball consistently.”
Here is what Booker said to the media after the Suns’ loss.
On his offensive output:
“It wasn’t well, obviously. But there’s nights like that. The most important part to me is winning the game and we didn’t do that, so I’m more frustrated about that. But we have a few days off here. We’re going to get back right and going to go over film and be ready Wednesday.”
On the Suns’ losing out on 50-50 balls and how they get back to playing with a high effort:
“Just regroup, refocus, go over film and respond. We’re on the road and we have to come in with the energy and effort. Like you said, the 50/50 balls, the offensive rebounds, protect the paint — just the details that we talked about. But that’s what the playoffs is. That’s why it’s a series, and we have some room for improvement.”
On the Suns responding to previous losses in these playoffs and how that can help them for Game 4 on Wednesday:
“Just like I said, it’s a series, and understanding that and understanding it’s the NBA Finals. I said after last game, this team is not going to give in. They’re going to keep playing all the way through. So we have to bring that same effort that we had in the first two games and I think we’ll be in good shape.”
On how he felt about his shot quality:
“I think I can get better ones. We’ll make that happen. The point of the game is to win it, and I think there were other things that went on throughout the game. You can say it’s a make/miss game, but at the end of the day you have to make the other team miss and get easy opportunities for your team. We didn’t do that tonight.”
On the message from Williams when he put his arm around him at the end of the third quarter:
“I mean that’s — I don’t mean it to be like that, but that’s between me and coach. We have that relationship, so we keep that in-house.”