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Monty Williams on Suns responding to Bucks’ ‘storm of aggression,’ taking 2-0 series lead

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Phoenix is two wins away from an NBA CHAMPIONSHIP

NBA: Finals-Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said after his team’s 118-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night at Phoenix Suns Arena.

On how he felt like the Suns responded to the Bucks’ runs throughout the game:

“Yeah, I mean the first quarter was a storm of aggression from them attacking the paint, offensive rebounding and we talked about it all morning. We studied Game 2 versus (the) Atlanta (Hawks) (in the Eastern Conference Finals) and that was their way to attack Atlanta in that Game 2 after a loss, was to just get to the paint. So, we knew that was coming. And they’re a good team...they’re giving a Finals effort. But I liked the fact that our guys just stayed the course and showed poise. We were down three and then in the second quarter, which I felt like won the game for us, our defense was at a high, high level. We held those guys to 16 points. So, that ended up being the difference. Obviously, you have to do more in the second half, but the second quarter defense was tremendous.”

On a possession in the fourth quarter in which starting forward Mikal Bridges and starting center Deandre Ayton each got an offensive rebound, leading to a 3-pointer from starting point guard Chris Paul to put the Suns up 10:

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

“We had a few signature offensive rebounds. That play by Mikal, [Ayton] had one to kick out for a three. Those are the kinds of relentless plays that we have been talking about all year. We have a, ‘We score,’ mentality, and when DA and Mikal give it up like that and other guys score, it’s like they scored. That’s how we view it. But in that moment when they cut it to six, seven, we kept answering with a big 3(-pointer) and you have to make plays like that to win games in the Finals.”

On starting shooting guard Devin Booker’s three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and the Suns shooting 20-of-44 as a team from beyond the arc:

“I mean, the guys work on it, we have a, ‘Let it fly,’ mentality. Our guys shoot a ton of shots every day, as everybody does in the NBA, but those are the moments that he lives for. Doesn’t run from it. I’ve seen it from him for two years. He just steps up and makes big plays. In that moment, I think one of them he set a great screen, they had the help, he popped out, he knocked it down. The thing about Devin, he shoots the same way first quarter, fourth quarter. Doesn’t matter, his shot looks the same. That’s a guy that’s put a ton of work in his shot. But the mentality, he’s calm in those moments. So, we’re grateful for those contributions in those moments.”

If he had any conversations with Bridges when he struggled against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals and his performance:

NBA: Finals-Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“There wasn’t any. I just think this time of the year, the last thing I want to do is crowd anybody’s mind. I tell our guys to go hoop. I don’t want them thinking about their shots or whatever may be deemed as a struggle. When you put the work in the way these guys have and we have trusted them all season long, when a guy struggles in the playoffs, I don’t want to get in his head. If anything, I want him to continue to shoot. We have a saying, ‘Reps remove doubt.’ If you get your work in, you can trust your work and I really don’t talk to the guys much. If they do have a tough game, I think that’s the last thing they want to hear from me.”

On what he felt was working for Bridges:

“Well, I think tonight he recognized once he started making shots and they ran him off the line, he was getting to his spot. Sometimes, he would get close to the basket but he would get to a spot where he can make that seven, eight-foot jump shot. He’s been doing that all year, it’s just that everybody’s seeing it now. But I thought he had balance tonight. He wasn’t just taking shots, contested shots, even though he could have because he’s long. When they ran him off the line, he was getting to the basket. And I think the other side of it is when DA’s low, you can’t leave him, and so that allows for Mikal to get to his spot and the big can’t help. So, I think DA generates a lot of offense for us because he offensive rebounds so well that the help defense at times can’t come help on our guys when they drive and shoot those mid-range shots.”

On coaching the New Orleans Hornets, who averaged 15.0 3-point attempts per game, in 2010-11 versus how the Suns took over 40 triples in Game 2 and made 20 of them:

“I don’t think you have a choice. I’m no different than any other coach, you have to adapt to the trends and what allows your team to be successful. I think the holdover for me is the ability or the willingness to still shoot the mid-range shot. I think that’s something that I’ll always be vested in. But our guys work on it and I tell them all the time, ‘If you work on it in practice, do it in the game.’ So, I mean, just spending time with San Antonio when I went back and being with (former Philadelphia 76ers coach) Brett Brown in Philly, I learned a lot about different ways to score and how you have to adapt as a coach.”

On the Suns making just one 2-point shot in the first quarter and how hot 3-point shooting can save a team in this era:

“It’s huge. I mean, the 3-ball is, case in point, when we were up six and they were cutting it, we kept hitting three after three. The ability to knock that shot down and have multiple guys who can do it certainly helps your team. So, that’s who we have been all year, and I don’t want our guys to change now.”

On what Booker does to keep his motor running at a high level during games:

NBA: Finals-Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“I just think Devin wants to prove to everybody he’s one of the best players in the league, but not just from a stats, numbers perspective, I think he wants to prove it by winning and he’s competitive. We have a really competitive team. Chris and (Suns starting forward) Jae (Crowder) and DA, Book, all those guys, they love winning. I think that’s what he wants to separate himself from everyone else, is to not only put up stats but to show that he can lead a team to win, and he’s getting the chance to do it on the big stage.”

If he can recall a moment in which Booker has felt tired:

“No. You know, there are times where I get the look when I even ask him about it. It’s like insulting to him when I ask him about his stamina. I’m sure it does happen, but the really good players, great players in this league don’t allow being tired to keep them from doing what they have to do. Every guy that I’ve been around, they have something in them to push past exhaustion. I think that’s why those guys work the way they do in the summer time, so that they can be ready for those moments. When they are tired, it doesn’t mess with their game.”

On how he prioritizes timeouts and which players to talk to during them:

“I try to be authentic. Sometimes in a huddle I don’t say anything, the guys will run the huddle. But I try to be an encourager in huddles, especially when I see a guy down or the team is not at the level where they should be mentally. I don’t want to make up stuff. I know what it’s like to be in those huddles and you want to know the truth. But you also need sometimes a pep talk, sometimes encouragement. I just try to be authentic and speak from the heart. Sometimes it requires me to shut up and not say anything. I think our players understand where I’m coming from; when I come to the huddle, I want to have something substantial to say or I’m just not going to say anything. So that’s just the way I approach it.”

On what he told his players after the game:

“We talked about it being a zero-zero series. That’s our mentality. That’s what we talked about this morning. We have to approach every game with a level of desperation and we can’t look at the series’ numbers. Human nature forces you to do that, but our mentality is to play every game as if we’re coming off of a loss. I think that’s served us well throughout the playoffs. And we know that when we don’t play with the force that is necessary to win, we’re not as good as we can be.”

On a possession in the second quarter in which the Suns had several passes, leading to a score from Ayton:

“That’s just who we are. One of our pillars is sharing the ball. My time in San Antonio and being under (Spurs coach) [Gregg Popovich] for all those years, I learned that when the ball moves like that, one, everybody gets to take ownership and, two, it can have an effect on the defense when you move the ball. Now, it’s not commonplace in the NBA to have that many passes but that was a huge momentum play for us. But that’s who we have been for two years.”