Suns’ Williams on Woj Pod: Booker hurt hamstring in Game 3 of Finals

Aug 13, 2021, 3:01 PM | Updated: 3:53 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) works the ball against Milwaukee Bucks guard Bryn Forbes (7) du...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) works the ball against Milwaukee Bucks guard Bryn Forbes (7) during the first half of Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Head coach Monty Williams has explained away his most curious decision during the Phoenix Suns’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals.

The rest of his calls? Those have led him to doing some mental gymnastics in the three weeks since his team lost the series in six games.

About the moment that drew the most criticism: Phoenix had a 2-0 series lead but trailed by 22 points heading to the fourth quarter of Game 3 in Milwaukee.

Shooting guard Devin Booker had struggled mightily, going 3-of-14 from the floor for 10 points in the game. But he didn’t appear in the fourth quarter, and while the Suns never got traction to make a comeback, his absence was notable because starters, including point guard Chris Paul, did see time in the final period.

“I don’t mean to be like that, but that’s between me and coach,” Booker said after the game. “We have that relationship so we keep that in house.”

On Friday’s edition of The Woj Pod, Williams told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski just what that decision was about.

“People didn’t know that Book was dealing with a hamstring deal in Game 3 and he got all kinds of flak for what he couldn’t do,” Williams said. “What people didn’t understand is he was basically playing out there on one leg. Those guys, because they are tough and never want to rely on excuses, would never say anything.

“That part bothered me because I heard all the stuff that was said about Devin and Chris in the Finals.”

Williams said Booker and Paul, the latter of whom dealt with a handful of injuries in the playoffs, never complained about their health problems — nor used them as excuses.

The Suns coach, though, admitted he has thought about the what-ifs. Most of those lingering thoughts while looking back to the four losses in a row are about what Williams did himself.

“I go back to our Game 3 preparation to get ready mentally and emotionally for that game. I felt like I probably overthought it in regard to the preparation because we lost. If we won I probably wouldn’t have thought about it at all,” Williams said.

It’s also weighed on Williams that the Suns and Bucks were tied going into the fourth quarter of Game 6, the series-clincher for the Bucks.

Milwaukee, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 50 total points, outscored the Suns by seven over the final 12 minutes to make the difference in the 105-98 game.

“I’ve gone back to that moment a ton the past few weeks, trying to figure out anything I could have done in that moment,” Williams said. “All you have to do is win one quarter, which is a tough task on the road against the best team in the NBA. You go through a ton of mental gymnastics and try to figure out something you could have said or a play your could have run or an adjustment.

“The irony is we beat them four times in a row (including regular season games), they beat us four times in a row. They just did it at the right time. That’s something that as a coach and as a leader will bother me for a long time, but I also think it will drive me to be better in those moments if I’m afforded that opportunity again.”

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Suns’ Williams on Woj Pod: Booker hurt hamstring in Game 3 of Finals