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July 6, 2021

Monty Williams

Phoenix Suns

Game 1: Postgame

Phoenix Suns 118, Milwaukee Bucks 105

Q. After 11 points in the first half for Chris he really got it rolling in the third quarter. Is there anything in the way he plays that is a sign to you that okay, he's about to go into his bag, he has a run coming?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I can't answer that one with -- there's no marker for me. When it's going like that, you just want to space the floor well and let him orchestrate. I thought he was making the right plays. They were switching a ton, and we have to offer that space and play faster if he gets off of the ball. But he was making shots and when he's in that mode, we just feed off of that.

But I don't have a marker or a segment in the game where I'm like, here he goes. It just happens. Our guys feed off of those moments in the game.

Q. You talked about getting easy ones, and obviously the Bucks play sound half-court D. I think you guys got 20 fast break points. What was the key to that tonight?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Getting stops and DA rebounding the ball. I mean, he had 17 defensive boards, and that allows for us to get out and run. I thought our guys were intentional about making plays for someone else. Even if you didn't get the ball by running the floor, the floor was spaced, and so we were able to attack paint or play hit-ahead.

They're a good defensive team, so any time you can get easy buckets, it really helps you.

Q. You have had Chris early in his career and now toward the end of his career here. I remember the first round you kept saying you guys have looks and you can read him. Just wondering how he's changed and evolved. Has his looks changed from when he was back in New Orleans at the beginning of his career, and just sort of his own career evolution?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Back then I was probably more forceful with calling plays. Now he'll read the game, I'll watch him, he'll turn to me and I'll be like, you call it. Or he'll be like, Coach, give me something, and then I'll be like, well do this, that kind of thing, as opposed to me trying to run the whole deal.

We always talk about the package of plays that we want to run in certain segments of the game. We'll have two or three plays and he'll stay in that environment for a bit. But every so often he'll look over to me and he'll squint and I'll know he's wanting a play, and then I'll call it. Before it was just me like, run this, run this, run this. Now I try my best to stay out of his way, because I know what he's seeing and usually when he calls a play that I didn't give him, it's a play I wanted to run anyway.

So I think that's the relationship that we have built over being together twice, and being in this situation with him I think there's a trust there. I think that helps.

Q. So to be clear, does he squint? The look is a squint?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It might be. They make fun of me because I squint with my glasses on. But he squints also and so when he looks over and squints, I know he's wanting a play and I try to give him something that takes advantage of the guys we have on the floor.

Q. You mentioned that the Bucks were switching a lot. They were switching a lot even in the first half with Brook Lopez on the floor. Were you expecting them to play that way defensively as much as they did and did you have a specific plan to attack that?

MONTY WILLIAMS: We didn't know. I mean, they did a number of things versus Atlanta, but in their last game they did switch a lot more. They're the kind of team that you have to prepare for both. So we didn't know. We just were waiting to go see what it was, and then we just tried to space the floor as best we can off of the switches.

Q. What did you make of Cam Johnson's performance tonight?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I thought he was great. His ability to space the floor and shoot the ball is what you tend to think about with Cam, but I thought his defense was really good tonight. He's a big, strong defender, and he has the ability to move his feet and keep guys in front. At 6-9, to move his feet like that -- there's times when Giannis is coming at you full speed. There's really no answer for that except to take the hit and try to keep him from getting to the basket. I thought he had some really good possessions tonight on that side of the ball.

And then his ability to score, space the floor, attack the basket, he's just a really good player.

Q. Chris has now scored 73 points in a back-to-back game situation. Only one time he's done that in his career. What is it about the last two games, especially tonight's game, in which his offense was both needed and came about and evolved naturally?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I mean, he just understands how to score the ball, but he also understands where everybody else is on the floor. I thought the pass that he had to DA for a finish at the basket was signature Chris. He had been scoring and managing the game, and then as soon as they blitzed, he hit DA and we got a layup.

But to answer that question properly, I mean, I would be here all day. He's just a really good basketball player. He's one of those rare guys that can see the floor and he knows where all five guys should be. He took advantage of his opportunities tonight versus their switching defense and thankfully he made shots.

Q. You didn't know for sure if Giannis was going to be a go tonight. How did you prep for that and how would you assess how you defended him?

MONTY WILLIAMS: We planned for him to play. Just felt like a guy like Giannis, who all the stories report about how hard he works on his body, we just figured a guy that works that hard is going to find a way to get back on the floor, especially in the Finals. This is the time of the year where you sacrifice everything, and that's what we expected.

So we had planned for him to be in the starting lineup, but if he didn't, you have to have another plan because they make rotation changes. So it wasn't like we were going to be caught off guard, but we were planning for their best and Giannis is their best.

Q. We have talked so much about Deandre's play throughout the playoffs but his efficiency in particular, just what do you feel like have been the biggest keys for him to just maintain that from the beginning of the playoffs up until now?

MONTY WILLIAMS: He's just locked into the role. Sometimes when you tell a player he has a role, they tend to think that you're limiting their ability. I don't think DA thinks that. I think he understands his role and how he can affect winning on both sides of the ball. It certainly helps to have Chris and Book creating opportunities for him, but he's done a really good job of understanding the angles and screens and where to be in the pocket to finish around the basket. He's just a presence down there. Sometimes they have to run two guys at him to keep him off the glass, and that allows for our wings to pick up some offensive rebounds.

Q. How have you seen the dynamic among Chris and Devin and Deandre evolve throughout the season? What do you think it's taken for them to be such a great trio?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Earlier in the year there was some gray areas as to how to help those guys play together. I think those three deserve a lot of credit for the time that they spent after practice talking about certain environments. I would love to tell you that I orchestrated it all, but we have given them a system and then those guys talk about the angles of the screens and different ways to run plays that we have so that they can be effective. I just think it's a lot of intentional conversations between those three and all of our guys.

So we're just grateful that they are playing well together and we hope it continues.

Q. We have seen DA's improvement through the year, but what he's done in the playoffs that's taken him to the next level has really been remarkable. Is it remarkable to you also, and have you seen a young player make as big a jump as he has in such a short amount of time?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I don't know. I'm just happy that he's playing well and I'm happy that he has an effect on the game in different ways. It's not just offense. There are games where defensively he impacts the game and covers up a lot of mistakes that we make. It usually takes younger bigs a lot longer, but again, I think playing with Chris, playing with Devin and the work that DA puts in with Coach Mark Bryant has really helped him.

He is a talented player. His ability to rebound and finish around the basket, and then to have a big that can step up and make free throws is something that we don't take for granted. He would be the first one to tell you, if he gets a chance to sit here, that it's one game and we have a lot more work to do. That's where his focus is probably at right now, just winning the next game.

Q. What are your thoughts on starting strong, both in this game and in the series?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It's the formula for any team. You want to win every game, but especially the first game it gives you a level of confidence. Our starts over the course of the playoffs, when we start well, it tends to build confidence for our team. I think about Game 5 against the Clippers when we had that below-average start. We were digging ourselves out of a hole. And it wasn't just the offense. It was just having the energy and the juice that we typically play with. So I do think it's important. I think our guys understand that and we need to do it every time we step on the floor.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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