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Williams sees signs of progress in Suns’ game-winner vs. Mavs

Devin Booker #1 celebrates the game winning shot with Deandre Ayton #22 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center on February 01, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Devin Booker made a tough shot, like he’s done before.

Monty Williams deflected credit, like usual.

When the Suns (11-8) freed up Devin Booker for a three to beat the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, there was significance for the team beyond the win and the highlight. In one play, how the Suns got Booker that look told Williams that his team is making progress.

Williams on Monday night pointed to Deandre Ayton’s “unreal” screen that followed a series of distracting actions.

It sprung Booker from Josh Richardson just enough as the Mavericks somehow didn’t blow a switch or miscommunicate with one another chasing the Suns in their set following a timeout. Richardson was right there, but Booker hit the three to go ahead, 109-108.

All of that is to say the Suns players out-executed the Mavs.

“That’s where the attention should be,” Williams said Tuesday.

The play was stolen from Paul’s old Los Angeles Clippers teams that Paul was a part of. Williams confirmed on Tuesday it was a play from then-Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

“We have an ATO (after timeout) sorter, a database I refer to,” Williams said. “What people don’t understand is it is so hard to get off a shot in those moments. The execution of those plays was all those guys on the floor.”

Before the shot went up, wings Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson rocketed across the court with crisp cuts. All while point guard Chris Paul dribbled with big men Dorian Finney-Smith and then Maxi Kleber defending him, Bridges and Johnson were the eye-candy.

For the front-half of the play, Booker stood across the court and set a few screens himself.

In the timeout as Williams drew it up, the head coach told Paul that it was regularly run for former Clippers teammate J.J. Reddick. Accessing Paul’s encyclopedia of basketball experience gave the point guard a starting point.

“He knew exactly what I was talking about, so he kind of knew the timing,” Williams said.

That helped Paul hit Booker in stride. Before Paul made the pass, he said he saw Booker’s eyes widen as he came off Ayton’s screen.

After practice on Tuesday, Williams ran out a long list of topics the Suns focused on a day later: transition defense, defensive rebounding and defensive communication.

But after the offense made enough plays to arguably steal a game, Phoenix’s coach at least had a tangible example of progress.

“The players deserve a ton of credit for that execution because we haven’t been able to do that,” Williams said immediately after the game. “Whether it’s a defensive execution, which we did to stop them from getting off a shot, or offensively, that’s something that helps us build continuity.”

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