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‘Really good environment’ at practice for Suns ahead of true test in Nets

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Monty Williams said he couldn’t wait to coach his Phoenix Suns after a loss to the Miami Heat Thursday night.

On Friday, Williams referred to the “slippage” of his team overall since the win over Memphis three games ago.

The ball movement, defensive rotations and other areas of emphasis for the team that have been so strong eight games in have had moments more often lately where they’ve gotten away from what they wanted to do.

So through some film and the accountability that goes with that, Williams feels strongly about how they’ve cleaned some things up.

“We just talked a lot,” he said. “We had a really good film session.

“You hate losing a game but you can also redeem some really good stuff from a loss. Because we have really good guys, they were all on-board, they all knew what we needed to do.”

The Suns (5-3) will have a good bounce-back test to pass on Sunday in the Brooklyn Nets (4-4).

Brooklyn has the No. 1 offense in the league at points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass, and works primarily through All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who is sporting one of the highest usage rates in the league and is putting up MVP-caliber numbers on that through two-plus weeks.

Irving’s 31.9 points per game are third to James Harden and Damian Lillard for the league lead while his 7.5 assists are a top 10 mark as well.

While the solo matchup on defending Irving is critical, it’ll still take a collective team effort to contain him. And that’ll be fascinating to see after a two-game stretch where Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic all had their way with the Suns’ defense for great individual nights.

Williams referred to this being “somewhat of a Miami game” because Brooklyn has sound principles offensively, playing at a high pace while chucking up loads of three-pointers, over 35 a night, a top five number leaguewide.

He also says that because Brooklyn plays “point-five” like the Suns and has offensive versatility, ranging from guards Caris LeVert (17.9 points per game) and Spencer Dinwiddie (16.9) to shooting in Joe Harris (14.9), who Williams said might be the best shooter in the league.

“You can go down a list of guys that they have who pose problems for your team,” Williams said.

That aspect of Miami’s game didn’t give the Suns too much trouble. They limited the Heat to only 22 assists on 45 field goals but 15-of-28 three-point shooting is where they got burned.

But that’s where Brooklyn hurts you more than Miami with attacking off the bounce, as they take 39.4% of their shots at the rim, the fourth-best number in the NBA. The Suns are a bottom 10 team in how much they give up in that area at 37.8%, so that’s a key swing.

For Brooklyn, being threats getting to the basket opens up that barrage of three-pointers they will unload, where they rank second in shooting percentage from the corner (49.3%) and third on the deep ball overall (40.7%). Not only are they great at taking lots of threes but they’re excellent at converting on ’em as well.

And they’re crashing the glass to snag the misses, rebounding a league-best 33.8% of their overall misses. Phoenix limits teams to a top 10 number of 24.8% there, another spot on the floor where something will give.

In terms of executing, turnovers are going to be the main statistic to watch Sunday.

The Nets are 24th in offensive turnover percentage and 30th in defensive, per Cleaning the Glass. Meaning, they turn it over a lot and don’t force many. That’s the biggest problem with their defense looking through the numbers.

On the other end of that stat, the Suns are fifth in defensive turnover percentage. Phoenix decisively winning the points off turnovers battle is where they are favored the most.

Williams sounds like he got what he wanted from practice in order for his team to be ready for such a test, with his star guard taking the lead through film.

“And the number one guy was Devin,” he said. “He knows our absolutes, he knows the things that we’re trying to teach, none of our guys take coaching personally so it was a really good environment today.”

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