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Suns Booker brilliant needs to get more help from stagnant

Suns Booker brilliant needs to get more help from stagnant

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Suns Booker brilliant needs to get more help from stagnant

Chris Paul's brain was faster than his body in Suns' 123-119 loss to … Sat, 17 Jul 2021 18:00:00 -0700-PHOENIX (AP) — When Devin Booker took his usual seat on the bench at the beginning of the second quarter, the Phoenix Suns lost their stranglehold on …

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Booker brilliant, needs to get more help from stagnant Suns

July 18, 2021

PHOENIX (AP) — When Devin Booker took his usual seat on the bench at the beginning of the second quarter, the Phoenix Suns lost their stranglehold on Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Booker had scored 11 points and the Suns built a 16-point lead on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Footprint Center was in a frenzy and Phoenix couldn’t miss a shot.

Then things changed. Over the next 5 minutes and 46 seconds, the Bucks began their comeback.

By the time Booker returned with 6:14 left in the second, the Suns’ lead had nearly disappeared. The Bucks had taken all the momentum and never let it go on the way to a 123-119 win to take a 3-2 series lead as the scene shifts back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Tuesday night.

“We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start and we let it go,” Booker said. “They stayed resilient and they kept playing through. So, tough loss for us.”

Booker was impressive for the second straight game, scoring 40 points on 17 of 33 shooting after his 42-point performance in a Game 4 loss.

But the rest of the Suns were either inconsistent or non-existent.

Phoenix looked stagnant on offense, relying on Booker to generate offense by himself. That was readily apparent on a crucial possession in the final minute when Booker drove to the basket, the Bucks’ defense collapsed, and Milwaukee point guard Jrue Holiday ripped the ball away for a steal to seal the win.

“We’ve got to move it around,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We know what Book can do with the ball, but the one thing we talked about was getting to the paint, finding guys on the back side. We feel like that’s a formula. There were some times tonight where it just stuck a little bit.”

Holiday outplayed Phoenix’s Chris Paul for a third straight game. Deandre Ayton scored 20 points but wasn’t his usual rim-protecting self on defense. Jae Crowder was quiet after a few early 3-pointers and a dunk. Mikal Bridges had a few good moments but the Suns needed more.

Booker’s teammates were able to step up during a fourth quarter push, but it proved to be too late.

The Suns have always depended on Booker’s production, particularly when it comes to scoring. Even when Paul — an 11-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer — was added to the roster during the offseason, it was the 24-year-old Booker who remained the cornerstone, having grown up over six years while the franchise built into a championship contender.

The difference this season was that Booker usually had plenty of help.

The Suns employed a high-octane offense that put on a premium on quick passes and sharing the ball. Coach Monty Williams likes to call it a 0.5 second offense because he wanted a pass, shot or drive within a half second.

The offense was clicking early in the finals and the Suns took a 2-0 series lead. It was the Bucks who were struggling to find enough help for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. But Milwaukee has flipped the script, winning the last three games — partly because Booker can’t do it all by himself.

Phoenix is out of mulligans. If the Suns don’t want to watch the Bucks celebrate in Milwaukee, they need to figure it out by the time the NBA Finals return to Wisconsin.

“We’re ready, man, we’re ready for next game,” Bridges said. “If you sulk about it, the blink of an eye the season is going to be over. So, we’ll learn from it, coach is going to show clips and what we have to do better, but we know what we have to do. … We lose it’s over.”

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Booker brilliant, needs to get more help from stagnant Suns Sat, 17 Jul 2021 18:00:00 -0700-Chris Paul hasn't been himself, and it shows in three-game finals losing streak.

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Chris Paul’s brain was faster than his body in Suns’ 123-119 loss to Bucks in Game 5

July 17, 2021

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Chris Paul’s brain was faster than his body Saturday night.

It happens to every athlete, eventually. Play long enough and you’ll see opportunities you can’t execute.

For Paul, the realization had been clear long before he checked in to start the fourth quarter of the Suns 123-119 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but he went out there anyway.

He’s never been an NBA champion, but he was showing championship heart. If the Bucks were going to beat him, they were going to have to knock him out.

With about 10 minutes left and the Suns trailing by 10 points, Paul found himself with the ball near the free-throw line, his back was to the basket, but he could see in his peripheral vision Cam Johnson open in the corner. Paul whipped a crosscourt pass that should have given Johnson an open shot.

The pass was high and wide. Johnson could only try to save it from going out of bounds. Bobby Portis ended up with the steal. Milwaukee ended up with the game.

It looks like they’re going to take the series.

Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 NBA Finals go on to win the series 72% of the time (21-8), according to USA TODAY NBA writer Jeff Zillgitt.

To win the first NBA championship in Suns’ franchise history, Phoenix will need to find hope in the reality that eight teams didn’t care that they had to win two in a row to take the title, they did it anyway.

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Besides, their defense failed them far more than their point guard.

The Suns gave up 43 points in the second quarter. That pace sustained for an entire game would have been good for 172 points.

Phoenix gave up 36 points in the third quarter. That was 79 points in two quarters, a 158-point pace.

It looked hopeless going into the fourth.

The Suns were down 10, and the Bucks were scoring from anywhere they wanted.

Paul — one of the greatest players to ever to lace up a pair of gym shoes, the final piece of the Suns’ Western Conference championship puzzle, the flint that helped spark the dormant fire in one of the nation’s best basketball cities — wasn’t going out like that.

His buddies from Los Angeles, LeBron James and Lil Wayne, were sitting courtside.

The entire basketball world was watching.

Could he find just enough more magic to make the impossible possible?

Everything on him was aching, it seemed.

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With about 5 minutes left, Paul got Giannis Antetokounmpo on a switch and started the ballhandling wizardry that has defined the modern era of NBA basketball.

Antetokounmpo, one of the game’s best defenders, didn’t stand a chance.

Paul moved the 7-footer all around the floor then put up a little fadeaway that Antetokounmpo couldn’t touch.

It pulled the score to 113-107.

A few minutes later, Paul flashed past Pat Connaughton along the baseline for a layup to pull the Suns to within one point, 120-119.

But in the end, he didn’t have enough juice to squeeze Phoenix past Milwaukee.

He finished with 21 points, 11 assists and just one turnover, but he just didn’t look like himself out there. He wasn’t able to simply take over the game in key moments.

This isn’t over.

If anyone is capable of turning things around it’s Chris Paul.

“Everything we want is on the other side of hard,” Paul said, quoting his coach, Monty Williams. “It doesn’t get any harder than this.”

He knows what to do.

But an improbable comeback is going to be that much more unlikely with Chris Paul’s brain moving faster than his body.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

There's plenty Moore where this came from. Subscribe for videos, columns, opinions and analysis from The Arizona Republic’s award-winning sports team. 


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– July 18, 2021
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