Milwaukee, Wisconsin – On the brink of elimination for the first time in the NBA playoffs, the Phoenix Suns must improve or watch the Milwaukee Bucks end their championship dreams on Tuesday.
That’s how Suns guard Devin Booker sees matters with the Bucks owning a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals entering Game 6 in Milwaukee.
“Be better, as a whole collective group,” Booker said. “We all know what’s at stake and what’s on the line. Everybody is going to have to give a little bit more because what we’ve done hasn’t been enough.”
Booker has produced two 40-point performances in losses as the Suns have struggled from 3-point range and defensively in dropping three consecutive games.
“We’re going to continue to play our game,” Suns guard Chris Paul said. “Book is one of the best to ever do this, so we’re going to figure it out.”
Paul, a 36-year-old maestro playing in the first NBA Finals of his 16-year career, writes “Can’t give up now” on his shoes before every game but now faces the chance he’ll suffer another playoff disappointment.
“It’s for real. No looking back now,” he said. “We got to come out, be ready to play and it’s either win or go home.
“Everybody has just been talking about embracing it. Doesn’t get any harder than this. We know that this is a must-win game. Nothing more than that. Now we got to hoop.”
That means better defending upon Bucks playmakers Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
“Just keep making them be tough shots,” Paul said. “If he makes it, it’s going to be tough. But at some point we got to make them miss. That’s what we’re going to try to do in Game 6.”
Paul has struggled to score in Suns losses and the Bucks have denied them the 3-pointer success that marked their two opening series wins.
“We just got to figure out a way to generate more threes,” Paul said. “We’ve had a way we’ve played all season long and we’re going to try to play that way in Game 6.
“We control our own destiny. I think that’s the exciting part about it.”
Booker knows that might mean he has to find teammates with passes rather than dominate the Phoenix scoring.
“With the team and the capabilities of the shooters on this team, we need to generate more threes. There are ways to figure it out and get more opportunities for this team,” he said.
“We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to do it. We know it’s possible.”
Suns forward Jae Crowder says his club has confidence it can force a seventh game on Thursday back in Phoenix, making boxing analogies.
“You have to man up to it, come out with a little desperation and come out swinging,” Crowder said. “We’re very upbeat and still confident in ourselves to get this thing back to Phoenix.”
After trimming a 16-point deficit to a single point in the dying seconds only to drop Game 5, the Suns know they can’t relax for a moment.
“It’s literally everything left on the floor. We have to compete for everything, every possession,” Bahamas big man Deandre Ayton said. “We just can’t compete for spurts or in quarters. We have to do that for all 48 minutes.”
Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges says the Suns desperation has to inspire extra hustle.
Everybody’s ready. We’re ready to win. We’re locked in and ready to go,” Bridges said. “We’ve just got to go out and be most hungriest team.”
Bridges sees the must-win moment as the test of a champion.
“You’ve got to embrace it. You’ve got to feel good about it, take pride,” he said. “It’s going to feel good having our backs against the wall, since we haven’t this whole playoffs.”
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