PHOENIX – After falling short in what would have been the biggest win of his career and failing to take a 3-1 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul turned to to the video.
Paul and teammate Devin Booker reviewed video from Game 3 and found cracks in the Bucks defense that Booker could exploit as his scoring production soared from 10 points in Game 3 to 42 in Game 4, teammates on the back court re-watched the last quarter of Wednesday’s 109-103 loss almost immediately after the game ended to find ways to improve.
In Game 4, Paul finished with 10 points on shots of 5-of-13 and five turnovers, equaling the number of errors Milwaukee had as a team.
While Paul’s disappointment in coming home tied 2-2 instead of one win from the first championship of his 16-year career is evident, Suns coach Monty Williams said he hasn’t noticed any change in the conduct of its owner.
“I just see Chris being Chris,” Williams said after practice Friday. “He’s always intentional about everything. He’s focused. I find myself upset when I can’t help him. That’s what we’ve talked about the last few days. But Chris is fine. He’s focused. He’s always trying to win.”
The Suns went 2-0 at home to start the Finals and Paul shone, averaging 27.5 points and 9.5 assists. When the series moved to Milwaukee, Paul’s game went down, scoring 14.5 points and 8 assists in Games 3 and 4.
“The conversations are about basketball right now. We know what we have in front of us,” Williams said. “Chris Paul, I mean, everyone here has seen it. There isn’t one person in our locker room who doesn’t expect him to come out and play the next game really well … His focus is very high, at a high level right now.” .
Paul looked so bad in Game 4 that some wondered if the partially torn ligaments in his right hand, which he suffered in the conference finals, had become inflamed.
“No, I’m fine,” Paul said, when asked about the hand on Friday.
Williams endorsed Paul’s claim of good health.
“Yeah, okay,” Williams said. “Aside from having to deal with me, it’s okay.”
While two of Paul’s turnovers helped fuel the Bucks ’17-8 streak in the final four minutes, after the Suns led for 38 of the 44 minutes before that, Paul said the Bucks’ profit Playing for as long as you have is that you are being able to move on, be it after an inspiring victory or a crushing defeat.
“It’s something I don’t dwell on. Even though it may be an anomaly, it happens. I turned the ball over many times before,” Paul said. “At the end of the day, we have to win the game.”
Williams dismissed Paul’s troubles in Game 4, simply calling them “a sign” on the radar in an otherwise infallible Hall of Fame run.
Paul said it’s okay that the Finals are tough, considering all the anguish he had to deal with on the court in 16 years to get there.
“I hate it, but it’s that simple,” Paul said. “We don’t sweep except in a series, so this is what happens in a series. That’s why they play seven games. This is the final. It’s dramatic. We have to protect the home court and win the game tomorrow.”