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Monty Williams encouraged by Suns ability to ‘space the floor’, attack Bucks defense in Game 1 win

Phoenix got 59 combined points from its All-Star backcourt and made 25 of 26 attempts at the free-throw line

NBA: Finals-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said after his team’s 118-105 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday night.

If there’s anything about the way that Suns starting point guard Chris Paul plays that lets him know he’s about to go on a run:

“I can’t answer that one with — there’s no marker for me. When it’s going like that, you just want to space the floor well and let him orchestrate. I thought he was making the right plays, they were switching a ton and we have to offer that space and play faster if he gets off of the ball. But he was making shots, and when he’s in that mode, we just feed off of that. But I don’t have a marker or a segment in the game where I’m like, ‘Here he goes.’ It just happens. And our guys feed off of those moments in the game.”

On what enabled the Suns getting 20 fastbreak points and 16 points off 14 Bucks turnovers:

“Getting stops, and (Suns starting center) [Deandre Ayton] rebounding the ball. He had 17 defensive boards, and that allows for us to get out and run. And I thought our guys were intentional about making plays for someone else. Even if you didn’t get the ball by running the floor, the floor was spaced. So we were able to attack the paint or play hit-ahead. They’re a good defensive team, so anytime you can get easy buckets, it really helps you.”

If Paul’s “looks” that he shares with Williams have changed since he coached him with the then-named New Orleans Hornets in 2010-11:

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

“Back then, I was probably more forceful with calling plays. Now, he’ll read the game, I’ll watch him, he’ll turn to me and I’ll be like, ‘You call it.’ Or he’ll be like, ‘Coach, give me something.’ And I’ll be like, ‘Well, do this.’ That kind of thing, as opposed to me trying to run the whole deal. We always talk about the package of plays that we want to run in certain segments of the game. So we’ll have two or three plays and he’ll stay in that environment for a bit. But every so often, he’ll look over to me, he’ll squint and I know he’s wanting to play and then I’ll call it. Before, it was just me like, ‘Run this, run this, run this.’ Now, I try my best to stay out of his way because I know what he’s seeing. And usually, when he calls a play I didn’t give him, it’s a play I wanted to run anyway. So I think that’s the relationship that we’ve built over being together twice and being in this situation with him, there’s a trust there. And I think that helps.”

If the look is a squint:

“It might be. They make fun of me because I squint with my glasses on, but he squints also. And so when he looks over and squints, I know he’s wanting to play. And I try to give him something that takes advantage of the guys we have on the floor.”

On the Bucks’ switching constantly defensively and if he expected that:

“We didn’t know. They did a number of things versus Atlanta. But in their last game, they’re the kind of team that you have to prepare for both. So we didn’t know, but we just were waiting to see what it was. We just tried to space the floor as best as we can off the switches.”

On the performance of Suns backup forward Cameron Johnson:

“I thought he was great. His ability to space the floor and shoot the ball is what you tend to think about with Cam, but I thought his defense was really good tonight. He’s a big, strong defender, and he has the ability to move his feet and keep guys in front. At 6-foot-9, to move his feet like that, there’s time when (Bucks starting forward) Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is coming at you full speed, there’s really no answer for that except to take the hit and try and get him from getting to the basket. I thought he had some really good possessions tonight on that side of the ball. And then his ability to score, pace the floor, attack the basket. He’s just a really good player.”

On what he has seen from Paul’s offense in the last two games:

“He just understands how to score the ball, but he also understands where everybody else is on the floor. I thought the pass that he had to DA for a finish at the basket was signature Chris. He had been scoring, managing the game, and as soon as they blitzed, he hit DA and he got a layup. But to answer that question properly, I’d be here all day. He’s just a really good basketball player, and he’s one of those rare guys that can see the floor, he knows where all five guys should be. He took advantage of his opportunities tonight versus their switching defense, and thankfully, he made shots.”

On how the Suns prepared for Antetokounmpo and how he felt they defended him:

“We planned for him to play. Just felt like a guy like Giannis, who all the stories report about how hard he works on his body, we just figured a guy who works that hard is going to find a way to get back on the floor, especially in the Finals. And this is the time of the year where you sacrifice everything. That’s what we expected. So we had planned for him to be in the starting lineup. If he didn’t, you have to have another plan, because they make rotation changes. So it wasn’t like we were going to get caught off guard. But we were planning for their best, and Giannis is their best.”

On what has keyed Ayton’s efficiency this postseason:

“He’s just locked into the role. And sometimes when you tell a player he has a role, they tend to think you’re limiting their ability. I don’t think DA thinks that. I think he understands his role and how he can affect winning on both sides of the ball. And it certainly helps to have Chris and Book creating opportunities for him. But he’s done a really good job of understanding the angles in screens and where to be in the pocket to finish around the basket. But he’s just a presence down there. Sometimes, they have to run two guys at him to keep him off the glass, and that allows for our wings to pick up some offensive rebounds.”

On how he has seen the dynamic of Paul, Ayton and starting shooting guard Devin Booker evolve throughout the season and what it has taken for them to be an effective trio:

“Earlier in the year, there was some gray areas as to how to help those guys play together. I think those three deserve a lot of credit for the time that they spent after practice talking about certain environments. I’d love to tell you that I orchestrated it all, but we’ve given them a system, and then those guys talk about the angles of the screens and different ways to run plays that we have so that they can be effective. I just think it’s a lot of intentional conversations between those three and all of our guys. And so we’re just grateful that they’re playing well together, and we hope it continues.”

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