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NBA FINALS: BUCKS VS. SUNS


July 16, 2021


Jae Crowder


Phoenix Suns

Practice Day


Q. Youíve gotten to see Khris Middleton a lot during the last two postseasons. Just what makes him such a difficult cover?

JAE CROWDER: I mean, yeah, he scores from all three levels on the court. Does a great job mixing it from his three-point shots to his mid-range to his floaters at the rim.

I just think just him scoring at three levels just makes him a tougher cover. He's able to put the ball in the hole.

Q. Have you learned like different ways to make him uncomfortable? I know so often Coach will talk about he goes at his own pace and you have to deal with that. What have you found can make him uncomfortable?

JAE CROWDER: Yeah, I don't want to give up too much, obviously. I just think you've got to make it as much -- he has to feel you. Physically he has to feel you a little bit. When he plays in space he's very dangerous, so I just think he has to feel you. A lot of different coverages at him, but I think first and foremost he has to feel the presence on the ball and then from there you mix it up.

Q. I just have two things quick. First, without getting into too many specifics, what did you guys do against Giannis to kind of -- obviously he still had a good game, but he didn't have the same success as Games 2 and 3. Was there anything you did to keep him from getting to the rim as often?

JAE CROWDER: Well, we're trying to defend our paint. Obviously these guys have been living in our paint the past few games. We're trying to not give as many driving angles, trying to do a good job on the ball, and obviously -- I mean, as well as help side and guys behind the main defender. We're just trying to take away our driving angles for him as much as possible and protect our paint.

Q. Obviously Chris is pretty good with the ball 98 percent of the time. Did they do anything specific to kind of get him out of rhythm in Game 4 or was that a one-off uncharacteristic thing and he'll back to normal again?

JAE CROWDER: I think offensively we did enough to win the game. I think our mindset is totally different. Offensively we feel like we did enough to win the game. We know how to attack these guys offensively. I think our issues is other areas of the game.

Q. I'm curious, last year you guys went up 2-0 against him when you were with the Heat and they didn't respond; this year they did. What do you feel like is the difference with this year's Bucks team as last years?

JAE CROWDER: The stakes are higher. This is the Finals, so they're going to respond. Both teams want it. Each guy on each team wants it, so they responded to it. You tip your hat off to them.

Q. When you look specifically at the turnovers from last game, what's the discussion about protecting the basket and how do you implement that the next game?

JAE CROWDER: Well, we haven't had that problem all year-round, so itís rearing its head right now and it's very simple. Just going back to playing the ball we know how to play, especially with the ball in our hands. I don't think it's too much of what they're doing. It's just us killing ourselves and having mental lapses throughout the game, which is causing us to turn the ball over.

Like I said, we haven't had this problem -- we've been a good team to take care of the ball all year, and we're going to get back to that.

Q. You guys are now back home with the Suns' fans behind you. How much have you been able to feel the passion from the city throughout this playoff run?

JAE CROWDER: Yeah, it's been great. It's been great momentum to have our fans in our building. We felt that right when we started to bring fans in the building during the regular season. We felt the support.

So, it's been -- it's great to be home and have our city behind us, have our fans behind us. We definitely feel it as a team, as an organization. We feel the cheers from our fans, not even in the arena, just outside the arena, outside the city. You feel the support that we have throughout the city. It's great to come back home and play the next game in front of our home crowd.

Q. This late in the season, beyond the physical fatigue, how much is this going to be a test for the team's mental fatigue and how do you go about staying mentally strong and locking in knowing this is now a best of three series?

JAE CROWDER: Well, you take it one game at a time. Obviously, we've been doing that all season. All postseason we've been preaching and living by that, so this is no different. This is one game at a time. You don't look ahead at games, you don't look back on games unless you're trying to fix some situations, and that's what we've been doing the past few days, is trying to find solutions for what's been going on on the court.

We're just looking forward to it tomorrow. Taking it one game at a time, and then the rest of it will take care of itself. But our focus is one game at a time, one possession at a time. We'll be fine.

Q. How much impact have the fans in the games when you compare with the bubble? What is your message as a veteran to the guys in this position?

JAE CROWDER: You definitely feel -- it's two different situations. Obviously, the bubble keeps you away from the real fan experience, the real travel, the real part of playoff basketball is what it's about. I think being outside of it I think as a basketball player, our league, as players in our league, we appreciate this situation more than being inside the bubble because you get to experience all of it.

You get to take in the home-court advantage. You get to take in the travel. You get to take in the game planning part of it, such-and-such.

It's great to be a part of this side of it, and I think I'm having more fun this year than I was last year when it comes to just playing in front of the fans, the whole grind of it all.

It's great, and I think the message is what I just said: Just take it one game at a time. I've been preaching it all year. Take in the highs and lows of it all. It's an emotional roller coaster. Just take it in and be as prepared as you can as individuals, as players, as teammates.

Just be as prepared as you can each and every game and play hard. That's the message I've been given.

Q. The good to great mentality that this team has been well documented over this last season. Going into Game 5 with a tied series, what do you think will be the key for you guys to take that step from good to great?

JAE CROWDER: Like you said, I just think just finding the best shots on offense and defensively just making it as tough as possible for your opponent. I think doing it collectively, not just individually, doing it collectively on the court on both sides of the ball is key to us winning the next game.

It's just doing everything collectively, trying to find the best shots on the court offensively and defensively. Just getting stop after stop, doing it as a group, as a team collectively for a full 48 minutes. I think that should get the job done.

But at the same time, the whole thing, the whole message is about doing everything as hard as we can each and every possession. Not even looking at the broader side of the game, just taking it one possession at a time. I think once you dumb it down to that, you give yourself a chance to really impact the game as individuals and as a player in the game. Just give yourself a chance to win the game if you take it one possession at a time and play as hard as you can.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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