PHOENIX SUNS

Monty Williams emphasizes transition defense as Suns face elimination

Jul 19, 2021, 2:16 PM | Updated: 3:18 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the league’s most dominating teams in transition and currently are an unstoppable force without an immovable object in their way.

The Bucks currently are out-rebounding the Suns by 28 throughout the first five games of the NBA Finals, resulting in transition buckets. In Game 5, the Bucks turned the ball over 12 times to the Suns’ nine yet still managed to almost double the Suns in fastbreak points 21-12. In Game 4, the Suns were outscored 15-0 in fastbreak points, a staggering number for a team that has lived in transition for much of the year.

“It is certainly a point of focus for sure. Last season we were number one in that,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.

“This year with the focus on trying to get more possessions from an offensive rebounding component, that probably lends itself to some of that. But when we watched the film, a lot of it was just communication. We were back, didn’t communicate well. They forced the issue, and I think in the first half they got five threes off that. Some of it is us. But its a lot of them.”

The Bucks currently lead the Suns a whopping 86-45 in fastbreak points. The only outing the Suns edged out the Bucks was in Game 1 (20-17). Since then the Suns are getting outscored by 11 points per game in transition. Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said that it has been a point of emphasis to get his team to get out and run.

“We feel like it’s one of the times in the game when we’re kind of playing to our strengths. We want to do that, including tomorrow night and as much as we can first quarter, fourth quarter. We talk about it. We emphasize it. We feel like it’s playing to our strength, and we got to continue to do that,” Budenholzer said.

Turnovers have been a major factor in the Suns’ inability to defend in transition.

In games 1 and 2 the turnover margin did not offer either team much of an advantage as the Suns turned the ball over 22 times to the Bucks’ 23. In games 3-5 the Suns turned the ball over 41 times to the Bucks’ 26. The numbers line up with the Bucks’ three-game win streak, but Chris Paul said not much has to change.

“Turnovers, fouls at certain times. Every time we sort of made a breakdown or missed an assignment, they made a shot,” Paul said.

“So if we can limit the amount of mistakes that happen — look, you don’t play a perfect game. I think if we can cover up for each other and just have each other’s back. Then at the end of the day, as long as we go out there and play hard and compete, we can live with that.”

Game 6 is set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday night. Catch all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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