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Paul, Johnson, Crowder break down Suns’ blowout loss to Bucks in Game 3 of NBA Finals

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Phoenix suffered its largest loss of the postseason on Sunday

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NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul and forwards Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder said after their team’s 120-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Sunday night.

NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paul

On how Suns starting center Deandre Ayton having five fouls affected the team’s rebounding efforts and keeping the Bucks out of the paint:

“I don’t know. I think we got to go back and look at the film. Obviously, they were home, they were very aggressive, got to the line a lot more than we did, much like Game 2. So we got to try to build a wall somehow, some way and try to limit the guys from scoring.”

On what he felt was missing from the Suns’ execution during Milwaukee’s 24-6 run to end the third quarter:

“I don’t know. I got to go back and watch it. Me and Jae were just talking about that in the locker room. During the game there’s so much going on, substitutions and stuff, so I don’t remember much. But that was big for us. Even the second quarter, the second quarter we didn’t close that quarter out well. That’s something we have been talking about all playoffs. So especially on the road, you got to manage the game. You got to manage those end of quarters.”

On what he says to Ayton when he’s in foul trouble:

“Keep playing. Keep playing. Sometimes you’re going to get a good whistle, sometimes you’re going to get a bad whistle. But he’s playing hard. That is a talent in itself. And then it’s tough, man, (Bucks superstar forward) Giannis (Antetokounmpo) coming at you full speed like a running back, you know what I mean? So trying to put his hands up, but it’s tough.”

If he feels like teams target Ayton offensively to get him off the floor:

“He’s a big part of our team, especially he’s the anchor of our defense. I feel like any team would love for him not to be on court offensively and defensively. So, yeah, we got to protect him better and make sure that we’re showing that wall.”

On what stood out to him the most when he looked at the box score:

“I was looking at my turnovers (he had four). Looking at free throws (the Suns shot 11-of-16 compared to Milwaukee’s 20-of-26). Yeah, you know, it’s a lot. It’s a lot to take in. But you got to look at the game as a whole.”

NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Johnson

On the play in which he went down in the fourth quarter while guarding Antetokounmpo:

“I took a shot to the rib, kind of knocked the wind out of me and in the process my ab(dominal muscle) cramped up. So that’s why I was down on the floor. If any of you all had an ab cramp, you know it’s just kind of tough to move. So I was okay, I just needed a second for it to calm down so I could get up. But, yeah, it was a shot.”

On how Ayton having five fouls affected the team in the second half:

“It was big time because they crashed the glass so hard and they’re big and they really emphasized physicality this game. Deandre does a really good job of bringing that presence to our paint, rebounding the ball, being physical, so it’s tough to have him in foul trouble, for sure.”

On the Suns’ run to cut the Bucks’ lead to four with 5:22 left in the third quarter before Milwaukee blew the game open:

“If I can remember correctly, they got a couple offensive rebounds in subsequent possessions. So those are tough and those kill momentum. Offensive rebound two or three especially. And that’s kind of where they were thriving all night and kind of living in our paint. So we need to definitely cut down on that and take advantage of those runs. But it’s the Finals so you’re going to expect team’s best shots. You’re going to expect physicality, you’re going to expect them to respond.”

On how previous losses in the playoffs can help Phoenix respond for Game 4:

“Big time. Big time. We have shown we can do it. It takes poise. We knew this one wasn’t going to be easy. We knew none of these were going to be easy. Can’t expect them to be. This is a team that’s desperate, that wants to fight, that brought the fight today. We got to be the desperate team next game. We got to bring the fight to them. Now this one’s over, we’ve got to take what we can from it, learn from it, come back and execute better and play with more physicality next time.”

On what was said at halftime to help the Suns fight back momentarily in the third quarter:

“They did what we expected them to do. Part of it is just basketball. Teams make shots, go on a run. Teams miss shots, go on a run. The big thing is taking advantage of those opportunities, extending those opportunities, extending those runs. But they did what we expected them to do, that was the talk at halftime. And we were due for some runs, we were due to get back in the game, just capitalize on it more and make that a four-point lead, get down to two or even and it’s a different outlook on the game. They started playing a little different, it gave them confidence, let them build that lead back to double digits, it makes it a lot tougher on you. But we know we got to be better. There’s a lot of frustration anytime you lose. It’s a group of guys that absolutely hate losing and you can see it on everybody’s face, me included. It’s a terrible feeling. So that feeling is going to motivate us to get back out there, get ready for the next one and go right back at them.”

On his posterizing dunk on Bucks starting forward PJ Tucker in the third quarter:

“Well, (Bucks backup guard) Pat (Connaughton) jumped Chris in the back court, which kind of left me a lot of space before the next defender. So that’s probably the most time I’ve ever had to think about what I might do with the ball in my hands in a long time. And just take advantage of opportunities, really. I saw nobody really stepped up until PJ did at the end, but just hoping they wouldn’t overturn it and call it a charge.”

On what it’s like defending Antetokounmpo, who has exceeded 40 points in back-to-back games:

“He’s physical. He’s physical. When he gets downhill, gets to the basket, gets to the free-throw line, it encourages him to keep going. And he was hitting his free throws tonight and that just kind of opens up his whole game. So it’s on us to stop him, give him more resistance. It’s tough when Deandre goes out with foul trouble and then I pick up five, Jae picks up four or however many he had, it’s tough. It’s tough to balance that physicality aspect of the game, especially when he’s coming at you so hard. But you just got to do it. You got to do it, we’re capable of doing it, we know that. We’ll go back, look, see what we need to change and change it.”

NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jae Crowder

If lack of consistency comes to mind when seeing the Suns lost in points off turnovers and second-chance points:

“No doubt about it. We feel like we lost the 50-50 battle, and I feel like on the road you almost have to win that or tie it. So I think that decided the game in a way for us, and we have to be better in that aspect.”

On how Ayton’s absence in the second half affected the team:

“It affected us obviously, but we have to weather the storm. You never know what can happen, and we have enough bodies to get that job done if someone gets in foul trouble. But tonight it definitely caught us off guard and we had to go throw a lot of different things at them, and it led to us scrambling and the offensive rebounds. But, you know, it is what it is. This is the first game, like you said, of the postseason of him being in foul trouble, so we have to adjust. He’ll be better and we’ll be better as well.”

On what went wrong for the Suns after they cut the Bucks’ lead to four in the fourth quarter:

“Second-chance points. It goes back to the 50-50 balls that we lost. I feel like on the road we got to win that battle. It’s not about shot making. It’s just about mano a mano, making sure your guy doesn’t get it and coming up with the ball. Someway, somehow, you have to find a way. And I felt like once it got that close, those guys scrapped a little harder tonight than we did.”

On defending Antetokounmpo without backup forward Dario Saric available due to a right ACL tear:

“Like I said, we have enough bodies to get that job done. We just got to do it collectively and just be better individually. But we got enough bodies to get it done. We just didn’t get it done tonight.”

On how he anticipates his team to respond in preparation for Game 4:

“Yeah, we’ll be fine. We’re going to watch film, going to talk this out. Going to man up to it. (Suns) coach (Monty Williams) is going to do a good job of showing what went wrong. We got to man up and do what we’ve been doing all year. Just respond to it, respond to a defeat, respond to things not going our way. Like you said, we have been doing it all year. So it’s no change now.”

On how the Suns developed mental fortitude this season:

“That’s a character thing in a sense, but I think you preach it all year. Your whole locker room starts to believe that and starts to apply it. We have been doing a good job of it since early in the season, before we had fans in the building, just building the stuff, building that team chemistry for things like that. If we have a bad possession, make the next one a good one. Or if we have a bad half, let’s come out and have a good half. All the way down to we have a bad game, come back and respond to it next game. So you have to build that, and that started early in the year. That just hasn’t come about right now. So it’s about the guys in the locker room, our coaching staff doing a good job of preaching that. We have been doing a good job of believing it and applying it.”

On what mindset he wants his team to have, especially considering he’s the only player in this series with NBA Finals experience:

“Yeah, we have been preaching it all postseason. Whenever we win, we don’t get too high. You just move on to the next one. You have a loss, you do the same. You got to do it with more focus, obviously. But I’ve been preaching that. That’s all. That’s my message, is just respond to it in the right way and do it collectively and we’ll be fine.”