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June 20, 2021

Monty Williams

Phoenix Suns

Game 1: Postgame

Phoenix Suns - 120, Los Angeles Clippers - 114

Q. Great basketball game. Playing without Chris Paul could not have been a whole lot of fun on any level. It seemed like Devin Booker sort of channeled two of his all-time favorite players, one of them being Kobe Bryant, the other one being Chris Paul. In what ways did you see him maybe do, channel Kobe at points and channel Chris Paul at others when you needed him to in this game?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know too much about channeling, but I just thought he managed the game well knowing that Chris wasn't on the floor, and I just saw his will, Devin Booker's will tonight. I'm sure he's learned a ton from his time with Kobe and being with Chris for a season. It certainly helped him having the kind of stamina that he had tonight to play that many minutes against a really good team. His ability, as I said, to manage the game, and he made the right plays tonight.

And I thought when we started playing fast, he started to attack and get to the paint, everything opened up for us, and then he hit some shots. But that's who Book is. He's been waiting for this moment, these moments for a long, long time. So maybe that's the Kobe part of it and the Chris part. But I just think it's who he is. He and I have had a lot of conversations about this kind of basketball and he's worked his tail off, but at the same time, he would be the first to tell you it's one game and we have a lot of work to do against a really good team.

Q. Wanted to ask about the conversation that you were having with Devin because he played 44 minutes and how you like to manage that, but at the same time he had it going, so maybe just speak to that.

MONTY WILLIAMS: Just felt like with the week off he was able to recover from the last series. And Devin's a well-conditioned athlete. He's one of those high-energy guys that I've been around. They just seem to go and go and go. But I thought he got a little winded in the fourth and something happened and he got the ball and took off like he wasn't even tired. So I talked to him huddle and he's like, Coach, I'm good. I'm not tired. And I just felt like we needed him on the floor in those moments, especially not having Chris. I'm always, in my mind, like, we have to manage the game. And we only had seven turnovers. That speaks to him managing the game tonight, finding guys and knocking down shots. But he's got a will. He's well-conditioned and he works at it.

Q. Only two turnovers for Booker tonight.

MONTY WILLIAMS: I think a lot of it is his understanding of our offense and where guys are going to be. That always helps. Then the spacing, guys being in extreme corners and all the stuff we try to work on. But it was just him. He was making the right passes tonight. When he gets downhill, he knows where the reads are. He can either get to the basket or try to find DA in the pocket. I would love to give you a better answer than that. I just think he was really good tonight as far as taking care of the ball.

Q. You talked about the pace of this game and the poise of your players down the stretch, how the pace can play in your guys' favor since you guys did have the week off, had maybe fresh legs, and then the way the guys came through down the stretch especially when this is the team with the least amount of experience that's still standing.

MONTY WILLIAMS: Well, that's how we want to play every night. When we get stops and can get the ball in flow off of a rebound, that's the best way to score easy buckets in the league.

As far as poise and experience, we try to help our guys as best we can, but they're just growing up on the fly, and I just, I feel like they're not afraid of the moment. But they also have a great deal of respect for their opponent and when you have a great deal of respect for your opponent you want to bring it every single possession.

Q. You talked about the Clippers switching defense and how you guys want to play the way you want to play. Did you like the ability for the team as a whole to generate open looks on that?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, the first quarter neither team scored that much, but I thought we were just kind of in a wrestling match.

And then the second and third we started to play more point five up. We were a lot better on the second side in the second and third quarter. Once there was a primary action and we swung it and then we played, I thought that was something that could help us. Anytime in this league when you can touch the paint with a dribble you are either getting it the rim or finding guys on the back side. That's how we want to play.

But a lot of it has to do with DA's ability to put pressure on the rim when we do swing it. But they're a good defensive team. They switch. They're physical. They pack the paint. [Ivica] Zubac is a load down there. It's like hard to drive when he's in the paint because he's so doggone big. And then they bring [DeMarcus] Cousins in the game and he's the same. So the more we can play on the second side and play faster, it may help us.

Q. DA [Deandre Ayton] was very effective tonight. The Clippers with that small lineup like to try to get him out of the game. How was he still able to be effective against that small lineup?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I mean, he's athletic, for sure. He can move his feet. I thought the guys around him tonight helped him get in spots where he didn't have to help as much. We don't have the answer to that. We just, we try our best to put DA in a position where he's not rotating. I mean, that's typically what ends up happening to bigs.

So I thought Jae [Crowder] was a huge facilitator of that tonight, making sure that DA was in the right spots. You want to try to keep your bigs at the rim, not just for blocking shots, but for rebounding purposes. We gave up too many corner threes, though. We were helping off the corner and giving up threes, and that's something that happened to a number of our guys tonight. And with a team like this that shot the ball the way they did this year, we can't do that.

Q. I don't know if you can share this, but how many messages do you have from Chris Paul after this game and have you had a chance to talk to him since?

MONTY WILLIAMS: No, the guys had him on FaceTime in the locker room. We do that whenever somebody's not around. We want to make sure they're a part of the locker room and anything that we do. He was excited, for sure.

Q. I know it's hard to appreciate it at the time, but Paul George and Devin Booker were trading some pretty elite shot-making there in the third quarter. How important was it that Devin responded late in that third after Paul went kind of nuts there for a little bit just to calm the waters a little bit?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I like the way Devin did it. He didn't inject himself into the game. He just did it out of what we do. There are times where a guy scores and you just want to go grab the ball and jack up a shot. I thought the way Devin did it tonight was within our scheme and what we do.

Paul, that's who he is. He's one of the rare guys that can make shots off the dribble like that. He makes tough shots. Like I said in the pregame, I saw him do it in his workouts with the USA team. Those guys would play one-on-one all the time and work on stuff like that.

So I think that the poise of our team was important in that moment. When a guy's making shots like that, it's so easy to become deflated. I thought we got the ball in, went right back down the floor and played him point five and didn't let it mess with us too much.

Q. You mentioned it a little bit before, but I just wondered how impressed you were, especially with your young guys maintaining the spacing in the half court that probably contributed to the low turnovers as well as the quality shots you got.

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, we drill stuff on a daily basis, but I think just having Jae and Chris really helped our young guys grow up, teaching those guys the nuances and why you have to be in the corner and what you have to do when there's a blitz or hit on the ball.

I thought Cam [Payne] and Mikal [Bridges] had big-time awareness tonight. A lot of times when you're not getting the ball you want to creep out of that corner so people can see you so you can get a shot. Those guys had great, a great deal of mental stamina, and it paid off down the stretch.

Mikal hits a big three because he was in the corner. Cam had a wide open one he missed, but I thought we got quality shots because of our spacing tonight or today.

Q. The mid-range obviously has been de-emphasized over the last decade or so, but particularly on a playoff setting, how much of a weapon is it for Devin?

MONTY WILLIAMS: We tell guys to shoot the shots they're confident taking. I don't care if you shoot the mid-range shot. In my opinion, I think if you play good defense it covers for taking twos. And we have guys that can make those shots. Devin, Chris, Mikal. That's a shot that those guys can knock down. Anytime you can score, whether it's a two or a three, it allows you to set your defense. That's how I view it. I'd rather guys take shots they're confident -- and everybody in the league is trying to take away the three ball, so I think you better be prepared to knock down twos. You want the ratio to be in your favor. But Book is really good at it. Chris is really good at it and we want to take advantage of it.

Q. Talk about just the confidence that's building on this team and from what perspective they have it. And then also, I don't know if there's any update or any optimism about Chris.

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, like I said, to your first question, I mean, we hadn't really paid attention, but when you say it, you just, you're grateful for it. Obviously, anytime you can get a win in the regular season you feel like you've come up with a cure for something. So to win games in the playoffs, especially from where we came from is huge for us. But we don't talk about it because we're not satisfied. We always have a get-to, not a got-to mentality. We get to play in this game and when we win, we also talk about gratitude, and we think about the things that go into winning and then we try to get better.

As far as Chris is concerned, it's just a day-to-day thing with him right now. I probably drive the people here in town crazy with that, but that's the way it is. We're hopeful that any day now we hear that he can ramp up and get back with us, but right now he's in the protocols.

Q. Your team had 31 assists tonight. You played great team defense as well. I don't imagine that is something you can do without trust. And I'm curious whether or not that's something you saw from your team today. Did it look like they were trusting each other the way that you need them to?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Well we had to. There was no other way to play the game. That's who we are, but we had to raise that level of trust because we didn't have Chris. Chris is the guy who manages the game, orchestrates a lot of what we do. So when you take that guy off the floor, you have to have that much more trust. I think it's going to help us when we get Chris back.

So that's how I saw it. I saw a lot of guys encouraging Cam Payne tonight. I thought the spacing was great. That's relative to trust, defensively. When we can get stops like that and get out and run and score, like, that's the biggest trust builder in the world is when you can score.

Q. Talk about the contributions from Cam and Mikal tonight.

MONTY WILLIAMS: Those guys, Cam had some shots from the corner, and then he had a couple of curls to the basket. And that's the one thing he does that he doesn't get enough credit for, his ability to finish, whether it's with a dunk or with the layup.

And Cam can play fast and under control.

I thought Mikal had great patience tonight. He didn't get a ton of looks tonight, but when they came to him late he was ready. The three he got in the corner. And then I think they blitzed Book and he was able to catch it and go and there was some indecision of whether or not they were going to come to the rim or steal out to the three and just kept going and dunked the ball. That's something we work on but that's just him making a read and a great play for his team.

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