Even if Monty Williams wanted to cry, he couldn’t.
The Phoenix Suns coach had no tears left after the heartfelt words of assistant Randy Ayers before Wednesday’s 130-103 win at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles to reach the NBA Finals left him deeply emotional.
“Around 2:30, we were in the locker room and just Randy and me and I was like, ‘Man Randy, we’re so close,’” Williams said. “And then Randy started telling me how he felt about me because he had been with me since Day 1 in New Orleans. And I broke down before the game.”
So even seeing Chris Paul cry in the final minutes of Game 6 didn’t move Williams to do the same.
“Jae (Crowder) laughed, he was like, ‘Chris is going to start crying,'” Williams later said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I had mine before.’ He looked at me and I said ‘Dude, I’m on strike, 2:30, 3 o’clock’. I left because Randy had just spoken to me from the heart about some of the things we had been through.”
Ayers, who coached five seasons under Williams in New Orleans and two at Phoenix, shared what he appreciated about the Suns coach when asked about their pre-match conversation.
“He respects his position, and it’s really satisfying for me to see him,” said Ayers, who is head coach at Ohio State.
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As valuable as Paul was in his first season at Phoenix, what is still the most important move the Suns made from 19 wins in 2018-19 to reaching the finals was to hire Williams, who was assistant in Philadelphia at the time, having endured the second worst season in a season. franchise history.
“Monty came in, built the culture, he led us with preparation met opportunity,” said Devin Booker of the Suns All-Star. “That’s for these moments here. We took it and we ran with it.”
The Suns prepared, seized the opportunity and are now in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 after 11 years of not playing in the playoffs.
And they’re not done yet.
“We still have work to do,” Booker continued, looking again at the glittering silver Western Conference trophy ball that lay beside him on the open seat. “This is fine and all, but we’ll go for Larry for the sho’.”
It would be the Larry O’Brien Trophy awarded to the NBA champions.
The Suns are four wins away from lifting the gold trophy for the first time.
“This crew here, this crew here, this crew here,” Paul shouts louder as he points back to his teammates during a post-match interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “Since Day 1, they have welcomed me with open arms.”
Before discussing how the second-seeded Suns will face off against third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks or fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, let’s take another look at the Suns who closed out the fourth-seeded Clippers in the Western Conference finals.
The Bucks lead 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals after Thursday’s 123-112 Game 5 win in Milwaukee.
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Player of Wednesday’s Game 6 win: Chris Paul
Clippers coach Ty Lue gives the Suns props.
“Hats off to Phoenix,” he said. “They did an amazing job. Monty Williams, one of the best coaches in the league and just the culture he’s set in, brought CP, the youth team, got everyone to agree with their role and what they wanted to do.”
Then Lue praised Paul, who overcame a shoulder injury in the first round against defending NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers, a battle with COVID-19 that ruled him out of Game 1 and 2 of the conference finals under NBA health and safety protocols and a torn ligament in his right hand suffered in Game 3 to deliver an epic performance in the arena he once called home during his six seasons playing for the Clippers.
“CP tonight was fantastic, 41 points, eight assists,” continued Lue.
Don’t forget zero turnovers in 35 minutes.
The Clippers are without their best player in All-NBA first-team selection Kawhi Leonard, who missed the entire series of conference finals due to a right knee injury sustained in Game 4 of the conference semifinal against the top seed Utah Jazz.
With Leonard, the Clippers are confident they will make it to the final.
“We’re going to keep going,” said Clippers All-Star Paul George. “This series will be very different. Talk about one of the best players in the league getting knocked out, but we are inches away from reaching the next round. So definitely this is a ‘what if’ in this case. ”
Paul was the main reason the Clippers also came home.
Not only did he tie a career-high point playoff on Wednesday night, Paul also scored 24 of Phoenix’s 30 points after the Clippers cut the Suns’ 17-point lead to seven, 89-82, with 1:43 remaining. third.
“There were questions about the production before tonight,” Williams said as Paul shot 19-of-60 over Game 3 through Game 5. “In my heart I feel it’s only a matter of time. I didn’t know it was going to be like that, but that’s Chris.”
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Paul also got up at that time while running on the smoke.
“He’s tired, but he’s still playing that kind of game,” Williams added. “Getting the basket, 3s, set everything.”
Criticized by his team for failing to close the quarter well in the series, Paul posted an 8-0 record to end the third as Phoenix led, 97-83, entering the fourth.
‘He’s starting to feel it’
Then Paul scored 16 of Phoenix’s next 22 goals as the Suns took the lead, 119-92, with 5:49 remaining.
“We kind of knew it was coming,” said Deandre Ayton, Deandre Ayton. “He’s starting to feel it.”
Paul’s final point came via a technical free throw after Patrick Beverley pushed him back after they crossed paths as both teams headed to their bench during a timeout.
Beverley was expelled.
The sun keeps rolling.
“Once we knew we were winning the game, we knew at some point they were going to break and that’s basically what you see,” Crowder said. “You see a breaking point with one of their leaders.”
Leader Phoenix will now play in his first final in his illustrious 16-year career.
Next up: Hawks or Bucks
The Suns did a 3-1 combination against the Bucks and Hawks in the regular season.
February 10 in Phoenix – Suns 125, Bucks 124. Giannis Antetokounmpo scores a dominant 47 points, but misses a match-winning jumper at the buzzer.
March 30 in Phoenix – Suns 117, Hawks 110. Cam Johnson scores 20 points off the bench as Phoenix has seven players in double figures.
April 19th in Milwaukee – Suns 128, Bucks 127 (PL). Booker hit two free throws with 0.3 seconds left after being fouled by former Suns team-mate PJ Tucker.
May 5 in Atlanta – Hawks 135, Suns 103. In the second straight round after winning at Cleveland in extra time, Phoenix was crushed.
The injury status of Antetokounmpo (knee) and Trae Young (leg) has not only had an impact on the Hawks-Bucks series as both missed Game 5, but also how the winner against the Suns will be when the final will kick off on July 6 or 8.
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Have an opinion about the current state of the Sun? Contact Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or call him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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