Suns’ Monty Williams: Devin Booker needs to take 1st shot presented to him

May 28, 2021, 8:06 PM | Updated: 8:25 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker gets off a shot as Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pop...
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker gets off a shot as Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1), guard Dennis Schroeder (17) and center Andre Drummond (2) watch during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Phoenix Suns are in a tricky spot after losing back-to-back games following a win in the first-round series opener against the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Statistically speaking, the team that wins Game 3 when the series is tied 1-1 goes on to advance 73% of the time. And when you combine that with the fact that Lakers forward LeBron James is a perfect 14-0 in his career in the first round of the playoffs, it becomes paramount that the Suns get a win in Game 4 on Sunday.

Having given up home-court advantage with the Game 2 loss in Phoenix, the Suns could take it right back with a win on Sunday in Los Angeles. A victory would even the series at 2-2, with Game 5 and 7 to be held at Phoenix Suns Arena if necessary.

In order for the Suns to do so, head coach Monty Williams wants All-Star guard Devin Booker to be more aggressive and willing to pull the trigger when he gets an open look.

“I had a really good talk with Book today,” Williams said via Zoom on Friday. “He’s got to take the first shot that’s presented to him. He’s trying to make the right plays. He’s seeing a lot of bodies. I talked to him about letting it go.”

In Game 3’s loss on Thursday, Phoenix scored 95 points on 42.7% shooting (35-of-82) while going 11-for-29 from three (37.9%) and 14-of-18 from the charity stripe (77.8%).

“The shot quality from the eye test and the film test was good and then when we looked at the data that we received from our guys in Phoenix — it was the same,” Williams said. “We’ve gone through segments like that this year and we’ve told our guys consistently since I’ve been here, ‘Don’t think about it. Let it fly.’ That’s our mentality.”

The Lakers came into the opening-round playoff series as the NBA’s best defensive unit during the regular season. Williams attributes the Game 1 victory to the number of traps on Booker and Suns point guard Chris Paul, which led to open looks on the weak side.

“They’ve done less of that,” Williams said of the Lakers traping Booker and Paul in Games 2 and 3. “We’ve gotten into playing in a crowd a little bit. When the first shot is there, we have to take it.

“And obviously guys have to knock down shots but we like the shots we’re getting. We feel like we can get better shots. There are paint-to-great schemes. Every time we touch the paint, we feel like we can get a good shot. Just have to have them focus on making plays on the backside.”

The head coach also called upon the bench to step up and help sustain or increase momentum in a game or two throughout the series. Williams pointed to Suns forward Torey Craig, who posted 11 points (3-for-5 from deep), four rebounds and one assist in 14.5 minutes in Game 3.

“I don’t want them coming out there being timid,” Williams said. “I feel like the bench has won us games this year and I’m looking for that right now. … We need more guys to step up and play like Torey. He’s out there playing — not reckless — but he’s going after it. He’s not leaving anything on the bench. He’s leaving it all on the floor.

“And we need our guys to come in and play that way. We haven’t shot the ball well. That takes away from the production. I think there are other areas where you can have a huge impact on the game but I know our guys want to shoot the ball better. But if you’re coming off the bench, I just want them to hoop, play free and play the way they played all season.”

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