Williams: Suns must help Deandre Ayton avoid foul trouble
The Phoenix Suns suffered their worst lost of the postseason on Sunday, and it wasn’t pretty.
Phoenix shot a series-low 29% from behind the arc and had 15 turnovers in the team’s 120-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
A key component to the Suns’ blowout defeat was center Deandre Ayton getting into foul trouble. He tallied his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter, causing head coach Monty Williams to sit Ayton the rest of the period.
As a team, Phoenix committed 24 personal fouls, which led to the Bucks going 20-of-26 from the charity stripe.
Williams did not blame the referees for the team’s loss, but he pointed out the discrepancy of the foul calls.
“I’m not going to get into the complaining publicly about fouls. Just not going to do that. But you can look — we had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17,” Williams said postgame.
That one person was Milwaukee’s star forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He went 13-of-17 from the free throw line and finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
Three of Ayton’s five fouls occurred when he was defending a Bucks player driving to the basket.
“We got to figure out or define what is a legal guarding position because there are times where [Ayton] can move his hands out of the way, but it’s hard to tell a guy what to do when somebody is running into you,” Williams said.
“I don’t know what a legal guarding position is at times.”
Because of foul trouble, Ayton only played 24 minutes compared to the first two games of the Finals where he averaged 40 minutes.
He finished Game 3 with 18 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
Attacking Ayton and getting him to commit early fouls looks like the plan going forward for Milwaukee, but Phoenix looks to counter it.
“… We have to understand how the refs are calling the game and then adjust to that,” Williams said.
“There’s a ton of physicality in the game, for sure, but as far as teaching [Ayton], we got to look at the film and see where he can have better body position and pick up some charges when they present themselves.”
Despite the loss, the Suns still lead the series 2-1. They were the best team on the road this regular season (24-12) and hope to prove that in Game 4 in Milwaukee.