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Suns practice on Thanksgiving, review film of loss to Washington

Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the 76ers 114-109. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Head coach Monty Williams spent the past couple of days going back and forth in his head on whether or not the Phoenix Suns should practice on Thanksgiving.

The team is in its worst stretch of the year, having lost five of its last six, and has a game on Friday at home against Dallas.

Ultimately, it was a decision Williams came to before the 140-132 defeat to the Washington Wizards the night before.

“The NBA season is unforgiving. I talked to the coaches and I tortured myself thinking about it the last few days because we want to be about the right things. We know families are in town, and yet, our jobs are different than most peoples’ jobs,” he said.

“We play all the time. We play on Christmas. We play on Saturdays and Sundays, but we have months off in the summertime, so I don’t feel bad about it.

“I actually felt it was a good thing. The gym was great. When I walked in here, guys had already been working out, sweating and getting up shots. We get paid a lot of money to do irregular stuff and I think it’s OK to bring guys in for an hour and talk and get together, and we know we care about them.”

Williams said most of the team-oriented work was through film, where Phoenix would review several defensive errors that led to good shots for the Wizards.

Washington shot 57% from the field and made 19 three-pointers on 54% sooting with 32 assists.

Looking back, there’s a lot of good buried in what the Suns did wrong, most of it being effort.

This is a shot the Suns will absolutely take. They trap All-Star Bradley Beal and do a nice job of closing out Jordan McRae, who has attempted 21 three-pointers all season.

 

But on the very next three-pointer, another blitz on Beal, Dario Saric completely leaves Davis Bertans at the top of the key.

This is precisely the “know your personnel” situation Williams mentioned after the loss and then again on Thursday at practice.

Cheick Diallo originally trapped Beal, so Elie Okobo was covering his man, forcing his errant closeout into the corner.

Diallo contains the drive, so Saric, a good help defender, takes his turn to get to Diallo’s man. But that’s a no-no, as Mo Wagner challenging Diallo at the rim is a fair compromise instead of the outcome.

This is most likely gonna be a bucket for the Wizards, but Saric abandoning a 44.3% three-point shooter on over seven attempts a game is “KYP” to a T.

As mentioned, this not a lack of effort. Over-helping is something that has plagued the Suns in the past, when they clearly wanted to compete defensively, but couldn’t execute.

Cam Johnson and Okobo both leave shooters in the corner here, and again, Okobo is going away from Bertans.

Some of this might have been in the gameplan. With that in mind, at a certain point, you’ve got to trust Mikal Bridges recovering on a small point guard like Ish Smith.

It opens up your curiosity as to how Williams coaches those types of possessions in those film sessions, as there are many things the Suns are doing right in these looks.

Williams sees it as more of a positive, showing that they can get the job done on that specific blitz, the first two rotations and so on.

It’s more optimistic long-term thinking and realizing that progression should come naturally.

“I think it’s a work in progress,” Williams said. “I’m mindful that later on this year we’ll be better at it and I’ll keep that in sight. As much as I want to be perfect at it right now, it was a great test for us, they’re a top five offense and Beal is a really good player.

“I like the primary part of the defense, the secondary was great and then on the backside, we have a mishap, and it seems like a lot of work for nothing but I think it’s gonna help us later on when we start to perform better.”

And those possessions really come back to bite you when there’s whatever this is, either Diallo losing his man or Kelly Oubre Jr. not hearing the callout for a switch.

That goes back to building winning habits and why you’ll so often hear Williams say the Suns have aways to go before they are a good team, even though they are “approaching it,” as he says.

“It’s tough because guys are playing hard and that’s what you want, but we’ve talked to our guys about, we’re in the stage of getting to solid,” Williams said. “If we can get to solid, then we can be good. And the good teams play hard and they play with a purpose.”

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