Suns picked worst time for first real playoff adversity

With Phoenix facing real playoff adversity for this first time this year — staring at elimination in Tuesday’s NBA Finals Game 6 in Milwaukee — the Suns’ task is simple. But it’s anything but easy.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker are heading back to Phoenix one way or the other. But if they want to bring the Bucks with them — for Game 7 — they need to find a way to snap a three-game losing skid, and earn a victory Tuesday.

“Head space, mental stamina, all that stuff, it boils down to getting it done,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We got to win one game to put them back on the plane. That’s it.

“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.”

The Suns have gone cold at the wrong time. They’re behind in a series for the first time since trailing the Lakers 2-1 in the first round, and the have dropped three straight for the first time since January.

But whatever doesn’t kill us …

Devin Booker (l) and Chris Paul
Devin Booker (l) and Chris Paul

“I like it. It’s fun; the tables are turned now. Now we’re the desperate team,” Phoenix center Deandre Ayton said. “We had our chances of being up and trying to finish the job. Now we’re in the same position that they were in. They’re up, and now we got to go get it. That’s why it’s a little bit more fun.”

Booker is coming off consecutive 40-point games, but Phoenix lost both contests — the first time that’s ever happened in NBA Finals history. Milwaukee’s switching has lured the Suns out of their ball movement, and the pressure has kept Paul from getting in the lane.

“Yeah, it definitely did [get stagnant], especially in that second quarter when I was out there,” Paul said. “And we talk about it all season long, we’ve been a ball-movement team and sometimes the switching can cause you to do that. We exploit it at times and sometimes we don’t. We’ll go back and look at the film and see what we could have did better.”

Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo — Giannis’ brother — was out for Game 5 due to COVID-19 protocols. Bucks assistant Josh Oppenheimer also missed a third straight game for contact tracing, although ESPN reported there’s a chance he could return Tuesday.

“It was extremely difficult for [Thanasis] not to be here to cheer for the team,’’ Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “He gives the team a lot of energy, and the team feels it. As much as it hurts, we still got to do our job, and I FaceTimed him after the game.’’


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