Suns’ head coach Monty Williams has learned a few things about human nature and how to fight against it. One of the most important things he has learned is how to fight against complacency, and this lesson has been key to the Sun’s recent successes.
“When you win four games in a row on the road, human nature says ‘ah you know, we had a good trip’,” Williams said before the tilt against the Mavericks on Thursday night. “We wanted to have a great trip, and the only way we could have a great trip was to win tonight.”
The Suns followed up on Monty’s mantra in Thursday night’s victory, defeating the Dallas Mavericks, 109-101. Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker matched Maverick’s All-Star guard Luka Doncic with 28 points apiece, while future Hall of Famer Chris Paul recorded his 20th double-double of the season, scoring 20 points and converting 11 assists.
Despite this, the Suns trailed for most of the game, behind by eight at the end of the half, at the end of the third, and even as late as seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But their late-game defense squeezed Dallas dry as the Suns outscored the Mavericks 22-6 in the final seven minutes to take home the win.
Add in the win in their return home on Saturday night — another game likely to succumb to complacency on a lesser team — the Suns have a league-best record of 36-9, ahead of the Golden State Warriors by 3.5 games.
When they left Phoenix for the five-game road trip, the longest of their season, the Suns were tied with the Warriors at 30-9, who had just welcomed back their All-Star wing, Klay Thompson, from his long-awaited absence. While the national media was focused on how high the Warriors could climb with Thompson back, the Suns focused on the task at hand: turning a good trip, into a great trip.
“We talk about it amongst ourselves,” Suns’ forward Jae Crowder said after the Mavericks game. “To make a good trip a great trip, you gotta win the last one, so we did just that.”
Booker spoke about how these road trips have shown the team’s strength in unity, and that strength can be seen on the court.
“Once we touch [the] road, we’re all together, even when we leave practice,” Booker said. “We’re in the room together, we’re watching games together, we’re hitting each other up on the group chats.”
“You can’t fake what we got.”
The “great” trip has also highlighted something more minor but personal to Monty Williams: for the first time since 2012, Williams’ overall coaching record is above .500. At 294-290, Williams has come a long way since his first year with the New Orleans Hornets. Led by bruising forward David West and a 26-year-old Chris Paul, the 2010-2011 Hornets won 46 games before bowing out of the playoffs in the first round to the Lakers.
It would take another four years for Williams to return to the playoffs, as Paul’s subsequent trade to the Los Angeles Clippers in the summer of 2011 would set Williams’ and the Hornets’ future back a few years. Williams’ record suffered over this time, but now his record is reaping the rewards of all his hard work and perseverance.