One quarter into Game 5, the Phoenix Suns rode high on a wave of energy from a raucous home crowd and were in charge of the game and the series.
Six minutes later things felt very different.
At the end of 48 minutes, the Suns’ focus had shifted completely. The Bucks were in control of the series, having won three straight and heading home, and the Suns’ thinking had shifted to forcing Milwaukee to take an extra plane flight.
“We got to win one game to put them back on the plane. That’s it,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “And you have to have that determination that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to put them back on the plane. So, we can call it what we want to, mental toughness, all of that stuff, but it’s going to be needed and our guys are capable of doing it. This is our first time in this position and we can do it.”
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” Chris Paul added. “We didn’t expect it to be. It’s hard. Coach said it all year long, everything we want is on the other side of hard and it don’t get no harder than this. So, we got to regroup, learn from this game, but it’s over, we got to get ready for Game 6.”
To get ready for Game 6, the Suns are talked about focusing on ball movement.
In Game 1, the ball was flying around the court for the Suns, passes were finding the open man, they were giving up good shots for great shots, and it looked like the beautiful game. However, as the series has gone on, the Bucks have gotten smarter about their switching and defensive coverages, and with that the Suns have reverted to more isolation ball.
“Our guys know, everybody in our locker room talked about it, we got to get the ball moving and make their defense work,” Paul said.
Devin Booker has been putting up numbers the past couple of games — he had 40 in Game 5 — but a lot of that has come in isolation, often turning the rest of the team into stagnant ball-watchers. That has to change.
“We know what Book can do with the ball, but the one thing we talked about was getting to the paint, finding guys on the back side,” Williams said. “We feel like that’s a formula. There were some times tonight where it just stuck a little bit and against their defense, they don’t have to work against that.
“So we can score in iso ball, but to make that defense work we got to move it around and in order to beat this team that’s what you got to do.”
That’s what the Suns have to do to force the Bucks to take a flight back to Phoenix again.