July 20, 2021
Game 6: Pregame
Q. Cam Payne was on after shootaround. He said one of the things that he thought was key was for you guys to play free. He said that that's a huge thing for you guys: When you play free, you play well. I guess, A, do you agree with that and, B, how big could that be tonight considering that this is an elimination game?
MONTY WILLIAMS: That's who we have been for two years. We have not been a team or a staff that restricts the talents of our players. We have always told our guys to play free within the system. That's something that we feel like gives our guys a lot of confidence and it's why we have had success. Guys are able to use their talents. I tell guys, if you work on it in practice, do it in the game. I don't know how much more freedom you can give a guy than that.
Q. What's the vibe you are getting from the guys in the locker room right now?
MONTY WILLIAMS: Focused. But not tight or anything like that. They're just focused. We have had good practices and workouts since the beginning of the playoffs. Every level we have gotten to it's just gotten more heightened with the stakes, but the focus continues to grow. Obviously, this is the deal, so to speak. Our guys are locked into the game plan, but also I don't think they're tight at all or anything like that.
Q. Only four teams in league history in the 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format have come back from down 3-2 to win it all. One of those teams featured or had on it on the roster your general manager, James Jones. Have you guys had any conversation about 2016 and how the Cavs approached the time in between games as they were trying to mount that comeback?
MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, not specifically that. But we have talked a lot about things that they did on those teams that James was on, and we have tried to implement some of that. That's the value of having a GM who has not just played but has been in those situations.
James and I talk a lot. I pull him to the side a lot to just ask him, did this player respond like this, referring to guys he has played with, to see if there's some similarities. It's been a huge benefit to me, for sure. This is my first time being in this situation. James has been on this stage a lot and has experienced a lot.
Q. It's been a weird year with crowds, obviously starting without them and then even in the Lakers series they had half the people in there, and now this is the loudest you guys will probably have tonight for sure. How do you feel like the team has adjusted and how have you adjusted to this year in terms of that environment?
MONTY WILLIAMS: I think once the game starts, you just kind of tune it out. I think you feel it during runs, or you feel it when you go on a run and you shut them up. That's typically how it works. But this is -- you have to give them respect in that regard. Their crowd is loud. But guys are used to that kind of stuff. On this stage, maybe not so much. But I think once the game starts, with our team we just kind of lock in on what we need to do.
Q. Two of their three wins have been final-possession situations. Is there anything in those two games that you kind of look at almost in a positive sense of like it was this close and we just need to change maybe one or two things to kind of get over the hump?
MONTY WILLIAMS: I tend to look at it a little bit differently, in what led to it in the meat of the game. Like, if we can do this in the second quarter, you know? You look at our game the other day, the beginning of the second quarter really put us in a hole for the rest of the game, even though we got it back. If we can avoid those, then I think it allows for you to not have to deal with that at the end.
But I still trust the guys who make plays for us at the end-of-game situations because they have done it so many times. I just believe it's going to go our way here soon.
Q. You said before Game 1 that your message all over the shootaround and the facility was just go hoop. What was the message either today or what will be the message for the guys before you guys go out there?
MONTY WILLIAMS: It's always hoop. When the stakes are this high and you're playing against the best team, you have to play with a purpose. That's what the playoffs are: making adjustments, playing within certain environments with a purpose. We know their stuff, they know ours, and now you have to have a purpose when you're out there. But it's still hoop. When we give a game plan or talk about the other team, we don't want that locking our guys up where they can't go out there and play to the best of their ability.
Q. Can you appreciate the kind of the tough spot that Devin might be in where he's had such an advantage over the past couple of games from a one-on-one standpoint, but maybe that's what Milwaukee wants him to do? Having to maybe resist the urge of taking the one-on-one matchup that has worked for him and trying to keep it in context of whatever you may want him to do?
MONTY WILLIAMS: I want him to take advantage of the matchups. When I look at the film, that's not what is hurting us. What is hurting us is transition defense in the first half. We give up five threes I think to start. That hurts you. The lull in the second, when he wasn't in the game, that hurt us.
So it's not Devin's ability to go one-on-one. He makes the right plays. He probably doesn't get enough credit for that. It's when he takes a tough shot, he gets a little bit of criticism for that. But when he makes it, there's not much criticism. And that's what the best players do. They're going to take three or four shots a game that are tough. If you look at every team in the league, the best players do that. So we have to complement what Book does as a team with better transition defense, better defensive rebounding and then play off of his ability to score.
Q. To what extent have you seen Chris talk to guys about his journey and the ups and downs of the playoffs, both performing well in high-stakes games and dealing with disappointment, and how this might apply with what you guys are facing now?
MONTY WILLIAMS: I haven't seen it in those bus conversations or when they're at the hotel. But I know it goes on because I hear when they're getting together. I don't know those conversations or the details of those conversations. I've been around Chris long enough to know that when he does talk about it, it's to help the younger guys, but also to probably, for him, to let them know, like, it's okay to experience this or that. Again, it's just to help our team.
Q. Going back to the "go hoop" idea. Bud also kind of said at this point in the year you don't want to give these guys more than they need to hear. Does it go through your mind -- is every situation where as a player or as a coach you say, okay, today's a day where we need something different, or is it sort of I guess self-explanatory in a situation like this and you would maybe say even less than usual?
MONTY WILLIAMS: Bud and I were taught the same: Less is more. We don't want to crowd the players' minds with too much information, even though there's a lot that you need to know. But it typically comes down to playing with a great deal of force, rebounding the ball, not turning the ball over. Like I said, we know their stuff, they know ours. Executing within certain environments.
But you don't want your guys tight. Giving them too much information or talking about what they already know, I'm not quite sure how that's going to help them. We know how important this game is. It's the biggest game of all of our lives. We all know that. We don't need you guys to tell us; we all kind of know that. With that in mind, I think it's on me to make sure they're at a high level with their confidence so they can play to the best of their ability.
Q. On the transition defense that you mentioned earlier, obviously it's been a big talking point. You've talked about the importance of it. What's the biggest challenge in actually executing it, because they have been so successful in all five games up to this point? How unique is their transition game with their size and their athleticism and sort of the challenge of executing against that?
MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, it's Giannis, for sure, when he pushes the ball. But they have been able to make shots. Shooting threes in transition has been something that hasn't surprised us. We've had four or five guys back, but when Giannis attacks, that draws the defense in and he has been able to kick it out. I think the better our offense is, the more balanced it is. The better shot selection we have, it helps us get back to avoid that. We're certainly going to need it tonight.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports