Suns’ Paul: ‘Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough’

Chris Paul finally made it to the NBA Finals in Year 16 of his career, but unfortunately for him and the Suns, the season ended without winning an NBA title.

Phoenix fell to the Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals 105-98 at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday and would lose the series 4-2 after having a 2-0 series lead. 

No one expected the Suns to get to this point. They missed the playoffs last season but added Chris Paul and Jae Crowder to the mix, and they were able to have the second-best record in the NBA, and ultimately, they made it to the Finals.

Paul, who had 26 points and five assists on Tuesday night, knows this loss will hurt for some time. 

“It’s tough,” he said. “Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while.”

Even though the Suns got to the Finals, which is good, Paul is not satisfied.

“For me, it just means back to work. Back to work. Nothing more, nothing less,”  he said. “Ain’t no moral victories or whatnot. We sort of saw what it takes to get there, and hopefully, we see what it takes to get past that…

“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough. So, we got to figure it out. I think for me, I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more, and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”

The 11-time All-Star can opt-out of his contract. Paul is scheduled to make $44.2 million next season if he decides to opt-in. No matter what he decides, the 36-year-old point guard says he will play next season.

“I mean, it will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality, get back to work,” he said. “I ain’t retiring… That’s out. So, back to work.”

Phoenix could have a hard time getting back to the Finals. The Lakers, Jazz, Warriors, Clippers(if they re-sign Kawhi Leonard), and Nuggets will be formidable in the Western Conference.

However, the Suns have a star in Devin Booker and a budding star in Deandre Ayton, but Paul was the difference. If he does come back, Phoenix can still contend. If he doesn’t, that’s a big blow for this team. We’ll see what happens in the offseason, but Suns have built a winning culture, and we shall see if they can build on the success they had this season.

Giannis: ‘I made my free throws tonight, and I’m a freaking champion’

The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions, and the main reason is their star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time MVP had 50 points(17-19 FT), 14 rebounds, and five blocks shots as the Bucks defeated the Suns 105-98 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night.

After losing the first two games of this series, Milwaukee, who got their first NBA title since 1971, won four straight to win the series 4-2.

Antetokounmpo, named Finals MVP, scored 33 points in the second half of Game 6, which marked the second time he scored 30-plus points in the second half of a game in this series. According to Elias Sports, Antetokounmpo is the first player to record multiple 30-point halves in a single NBA Finals over the last 40 years. Additionally, he’s the seventh player in the history of the NBA to score 50 points in the Finals.

When Antetokounmpo hyperextended his left knee against the Hawks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, many thought he would not be able to get back on the court again this season, but he got back on the court and averaged 35.5 points on 62% shooting from the field, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game in the Finals. 

It’s been a long journey for the “Greek Freak” to an NBA title, and according to him, he was not sure it would happen.

“I started playing basketball just to help my family,” he said after the game. “Tried to get them out of the struggle, the challenges we were facing when we were kids. But I never thought I’m going to be 26 years old, with my team playing the NBA Finals. Just playing — like, I was just happy just being like not even winning, just being a part of this, of this journey. But I never thought I would be sitting here with this right here and this right here (the championship and MVP trophies.) We’ve come a long way.”

Antetokounmpo has had his struggles from the free-throw line throughout his career, but he quieted a lot of people by going 17-19 from the line on Tuesday night, which he discussed postgame.

“People told me I cannot make free throws,” he said. “I made my free throws tonight, and I’m a freaking champion. I made them when I’m supposed to make them. I’m joking — actually, I’m not (laughter).”

Before the start of the season, the five-time All-Star signed a five-year, $228 million extension, the largest contract in league history. After some playoffs failures, including losing to the Heat in the second round of the playoffs last season, some thought Antetokounmpo would go elsewhere, but he stayed in Milwaukee, and now he’s a champion.

“But coming back, I was like, this is my city,” he said. “They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us. Even when we lost, the city was still — went outside, and you know, obviously, I wanted to get the job done. But that’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. I could go — I don’t put — I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship, but this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it, and we did it. (Expletive) did it. We did it, man.”

Antetokounmpo was remarkable in this series, and with the help of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and others, he’s finally a champion.

 

 

Holiday on steal on Booker: ‘I guess I was just in the right place at the right time’

After one quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it appeared the Phoenix Suns would blow out the Milwaukee Bucks. Phoenix led 37-21 after the first quarter and were rolling. However, the Bucks dominated the second and third quarters. Milwaukee outscored the Suns 79-56 in those two quarters, and shot a combined 71.1 percent (32-of-45) while knocking down 10 of their 14 threes.

Phoenix battled back in the fourth quarter, but Milwaukee held on to win Game 5 123-119 at Footprint Center.

The Bucks took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Suns cut the lead to 120-119. With 16.9 seconds left in the contest and a chance for Phoenix to take the lead, Jrue Holiday would make the play of the game when he stripped Devin Booker, threw an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who dunked the ball and was fouled by Chris Paul. Antetokounmpo would miss the free throw, but Khris Middleton would secure the offensive rebound and make one of two free throws to put the game away.

Holiday, who shot 12-of-20 from the floor and scored 14 of his 27 points in the second quarter and added a game-high 13 assists, was remarkable for Milwaukee on both ends of the court on Saturday night. He is a big reason why Milwaukee is one game away from winning their first NBA title in 50 years. 

“Big-time steal,” Antetokounmpo, who had 32 points and nine rebounds in Game 5, said postgame about Holiday’s play on Booker. “Showing a crowd, they didn’t get to the spot, and he came from behind and ripped the ball out. He can go down to the other end and just, you know, go for like a full play, run the clock down. But he trusted me and made an incredible pass, also, for the lob. It was big time. It was a big-time play. It was the winning play of the game.”

Holiday added on the steal on Booker: “I feel like we knew Booker wanted to take that last shot and played great defense on him and made him turn his back, and he turned right into me. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”

As the Suns examine Game 5, they will look at the second quarter. Phoenix was outscored 43-24 in that quarter. Booker, who scored a game-high 40 points on Saturday night after scoring 42 in Game 4, talked about the second quarter.

“It was tough,” he said. “We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start, and we let it go. They stayed resilient, and they kept playing through. So, tough loss for us.”

After being up 2-0, the Suns have lost three straight, something they have not done since January. Phoenix has not faced elimination at any point in these playoffs until now. As Suns head coach Monty Williams says, “Everything you want is on the other side of hard.” 

So, Phoenix has to find a way in Game 6 in Milwaukee on Tuesday night if they want to keep their season alive.

Notes:

-With his 40 points on Saturday night, Booker has now scored 582 points this postseason. He joins Dwyane Wade as the only two players in NBA history to score 580-plus points in one postseason while under the age of 25.

-Game 5 marked just the second time in NBA Finals history of consecutive quarters with a scoring margin of at least 15 points (Suns outscored the Bucks 37-21 in the 1st quarter, while Milwaukee outscored Phoenix 43-24).

-The Suns outscored Milwaukee 66-44 in the first and fourth quarters combined. 

-Chris Paul turned in his first double-double performance of the Finals, and his fourth of this postseason tonight, scoring 21 points to go along with a team-high 11 assists. Paul knocked down all three of his three-point attempts on the evening.

-Middleton scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half tonight while adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Middleton shot 12-of-23 on the night and knocked down 3 of his 8 three-point attempts.

Suns’ Ayton expects Booker to bounce back in Game 4

Phoenix Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker struggled in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Booker shot 3/14 from the field and finished with 10 points. Ultimately, the Suns fell to the Bucks 120-100 on Sunday night.

Phoenix leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

In the postseason, when Booker struggles in a game, he usually comes back more potent in the next contest. After shooting 6/14 and scoring 17 points against the Lakers in Game 4 of their first-round series, Booker had a 30-point game in Game 5 and a 47-point explosion in the closeout game. In Game 2 against Denver in the Western Conference semifinals, Booker shot 6/14 and finished with 18 points. In the next two games in that series, Booker had a combined 62 points.

“Short memory,” Booker said during Finals media availability on Tuesday. “Just move on. Been there before. So just understanding that understanding the game, understanding situations that you’ve been through, and just trusting the work that you’ve put in, as simple as that. But my main objective out there is to win the basketball game.”

Deandre Ayton, who had 18 points and nine rebounds in Game 3, but was saddled with foul trouble, believes Booker will bounce back in Game 4.

“Yeah, he gets pretty scary after that,” Ayton said. “Just knowing his mentality and knowing that games like that don’t really slow him down. We know it was just one of those games, but I know he’ll step up, and as a team, we’ll step up, as well.”

According to Chris Paul, it’s just not on Booker; everybody has to play better.

“I think it’s more like what’s our team like,” Paul said. “This ain’t golf. It’s not tennis. You know what I mean? We’re all in this together. So everybody on our team took the loss hard, as we should. We never go into a game expecting to lose. If you showed me, somebody who expects to lose, I’ll show you a loser. So everybody on our team felt a way. We felt like we could be better. That’s why we used yesterday, we’ll use today to prepare, and we’ll all come out ready to play tomorrow.”

Booker has to be better for the Suns to win in Milwaukee, and history tells us he will bounce back. If he struggles in Game 4, this series will probably be tied at two, heading back to Phoenix for Game 5.

Suns’ Paul on Bridges: ‘He’s a winner’

The Phoenix Suns are now two games away from winning their first NBA title after defeating the Bucks 118-108 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Thursday night.

Devin Booker scored a team-high 31 points tonight to go along with five rebounds and six assists. Booker knocked down seven three-pointers on 12 attempts, while Mikal Bridges scored a playoff career-high 27 points in Game 2 on 8-of-15 shooting (3-of-9 3FG) to go along with seven rebounds.

The Suns are 11-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.

Chris Paul, who had 23 points, eight assists, and four rebounds on Thursday night, believes Bridges is a winner.

“He’s a winner,” Paul said. “When we won the Western Conference finals, I looked at him, and I had a flashback of him being at Villanova. I remember him winning a championship there. He’s just a winner. He’s going to do whatever you need him to do, offensively or defensively, and it’s good to see him playing like this.”

The Suns knocked down 20 three-pointers on 40 attempts on Thursday night. It marked just the third time in NBA Finals history that a team has made 20 threes or more in a Finals game. Additionally, the 20 threes marked a franchise record for threes in a postseason game.

Phoenix led by as many as 11 points in the first half and as much as 15 points in the third quarter, and then Giannis Antetokounmpo came alive. The two-time MVP scored 20 of his game-high 42 points in the quarter and was able to get the lead to as low as five points in third, but it wasn’t enough. Antetokounmpo also added a team-high 12 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are down 0-2 in this series, and they have been here before in the second round against Brooklyn, and ultimately, they were able to win that series in 7, so Antetokounmpo is still confident.

“We’ve been here before, and we were able to get the job done,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully, we can put ourselves in position, and we can believe in one another, and we can play together, and we can have fun. We can compete, and we can dive on the floor, we can make shots, put ourselves in a position to win the game. But like we know what the deal is, man. Like we got to go back home and protect home.”

The series does not start until the road team wins, so let’s see what happens in Milwaukee.

Notes:

-According to Stathead, Antetokounmpo became just the fourth player in NBA Finals history to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 3-plus blocks in a Finals game, joining Shaquille O’Neal (3 times), LeBron James and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

In addition, Antetokounmpo got to the free throw line 18 times, knocking down 11 of them. It marked the most free throw attempts by a single player in an NBA Finals game since June 7, 2015 (LeBron James).

-Deandre Ayton recorded his fifth-straight double-double tonight and 13th of the postseason, notching 10 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and a game-high three steals. With his double-double tonight, Ayton moved into sole possession of second place for the most double-doubles in one postseason by a Suns player in franchise history, trailing only Charles Barkley’s mark of 22 during the 1993 playoffs.

Listen to Go4it! Guest: Ex-NBA player C.J. Watson

Former NBA player C.J. Watson talks Chris Paul, Trae Young, can the Bucks win the Finals without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Watson believes that Derrick Rose is Hall of Famer, Ben Simmons has to shoot if he wants to be better, Dame Lillard’s future in Portland, can LeBron James win another title, and who is the best player in basketball?

C.J. talks Foundation and children’s books:

quietstormfoundation.org

cjpens.com

Listen below:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Bucks: ‘I think they broke our spirit’

Like they did against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers fought and battled against the Bucks at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Friday, but just like what happened against the Clippers, the Cavaliers did not have enough.

Against the Clippers, Cleveland(10-13) trailed by three at the half but were outscored by 11 in the third quarter and would lose 121-99. 

On Friday against the Bucks(14-8), Cleveland led by three at the half and trailed by five entering the fourth quarter. The Cavs would score only 16 points in the final quarter and would fall to Milwaukee 123-105.

Reigning-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points and 13 rebounds, while Cleveland’s Collin Sexton had a team-high 19 points.

The Bucks are a championship-caliber team, and Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff felt Milwaukee broke his team’s spirit.

“I think they broke our spirit,’ Bickerstaff said after the game. “That is what I saw more than anything. They made us pay for our mistakes, and they keep coming. They keep coming, and I thought we lost some of that determination in the fourth quarter.”

Cavs’ Cedi Osman, who scored 12 points off the bench, added: “I think there was one period in the fourth quarter. They took an offensive rebound; They made a three, and then, J.B(Bickerstaff) took a timeout, and it was a six-point game. It was only a six-point game, but our heads were down like we were down by 15. It was actually a two-possession game. We can’t do that. We have to keep our heads up.”

According to Bickerstaff, Cleveland has to do a better job of playing through mistakes.

“I thought we made some mistakes, and then, we put our heads down,” he said. “We’re learning and understanding. You watch them play. If you score on them, they get the ball out quickly, and they move on to the next possession. Simple thing for us, they score on us, the ball bounces, head down, and we play slowly out the gate.

“We have to in those moments be able to get through those. Short-term memory, move onto the next possession, and limit the mistakes down the stretch. That I thought bit us in the butt in the moment.”

Learning how to win consistently in the NBA is a process, and right now, Cleveland is going through the process of learning how to win. They will have an opportunity to work through that process on Saturday night in the second game of their two-game home set against Milwaukee.

76ers’ Ennis on GM 7 against Raps: We would be champions if we win that game(VIDEO)

Basketball is a game inches. A couple bounces here, and a bounces couple there can change everything. Just ask the Philadelphia 76ers. With the game tied at 90, Kawhi Leonard made one of the most improbable shots to send the Raptors past the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The ball bounced up, down, and into the basket. An inch to the left or an inch to the right could have changed the course history, so says Sixers F James Ennis.

“Lucky shot,” Ennis told Paul Gant on Friday after the introductory press conference to announce his signing with the 76ers. “He’s a good player, though. Kawhi’s one of the best players in the league, but it hit the rim like four times. I felt like if we would have won that game, we would have won the whole thing…

“If we would have won that game, we would have beat Milwaukee, and we would have won a championship because I think we matched up well against Milwaukee. We gave Toronto a run for their money.”

Ennis recently said that the Sixers would “walk to the Finals” now that Kawhi Leonard is out of the Eastern Conference. On Friday, he still sounded very confident in his team.

The East is up for grabs,” he said. “The West is a lot tougher, but I think we have a team that is elite still. We have a good coaching staff here, good coach, good players. I think we are determined to go farther than we did last year, and I know we will.”

The way Milwaukee flamed out against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing the final four games of the series after being up 2-0, Ennis might have a point. Also, after how the Warriors broke down physically(Durant, Thompson injuries), all the top teams in the East should be kicking themselves right now, and with the West getting even stronger, the top teams in the East might be kicking themselves for a long time!

Listen to complete interview with Ennis below as he discusses why he came back to Philly, how much money he left on the table, the playoffs, and more:

 

 

 

Pop: ‘Pau Gasol is an exceptional individual and the ultimate professional’

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they had reached a buyout agreement with Pau Gasol, and according to ESPN, Gasol is expected to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Currently, Milwaukee has the best record in basketball, and with the addition of Gasol, the Bucks add more size off the bench.

Interestingly enough, Gasol could battle his brother, Marc, who was recently acquired by the Raptors, at some point in the playoffs.

Gasol, 38, originally signed with the Spurs on July 14, 2016 and appeared in a total of 168 games with San Antonio, averaging 10.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 22.4 minutes. In 27 games, Gasol is averaging 4.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.

“Pau Gasol is an exceptional individual and the ultimate professional,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. “We are grateful for his contributions on the court, in the locker room and in our community.”

The 18-year NBA veteran and two-time champion is a four-time All-NBA selection and six-time All-Star. In 1,223 career NBA games (1,150 starts), Gasol has averaged 17.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.59 blocks in 33.5 minutes.

Gasol is one of four players in NBA history to record over 20,000 points, 11,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists and 1,500 blocks in his career, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett.