Suns’ McGee: If I was in Phoenix last year, we probably would have won a championship

Phoenix, you have a winner in town. Backup center JaVale McGee is a winner. He has been a part of three of the last five NBA Finals’ winning teams and got his last title in 2020 with the Lakers.

In addition, he won a Gold Medal last summer in Tokyo. The three-time champion signed with last year’s Western Conference champions, the Phoenix Suns, in the offseason.

On Friday, McGee started for Suns center Deandre Ayton(illness) against the Boston Celtics, and he played well. McGee had his fourth double-double of the season, with a season and team-high 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. This was McGee’s 10th career game of 20-plus points and 15-plus rebounds.

Ultimately, the Suns(21-4) would rout the visiting Celtics(13-14) 111-90.

In 25 games, McGee averages 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds off the bench.

Last season, Phoenix had Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky as Ayton’s backup, but it’s clear after 25 games that McGee is an upgrade, and according to McGee, if he were in Phoenix last season, the Suns would have won a championship.

“I definitely bring championship experience,’ McGee said post-game. “I’ve been there and won it. I’m undefeated in the Finals. It’s just a challenge through the whole season to stay locked in, and I try to bring that energy every game, every practice. Every day they see me, I try to bring that great energy to the guys. Some guys have a bad history of being a cancer to a team, or they didn’t play well this game, or they didn’t play a lot this game, and that’ll change their whole mood. I’m not that guy. I’m the same way. If you ask any of my teammates, any of the coaching staff, of any team I played for too. For example, if you asked guys last year in Denver, I didn’t even play, but I was still being that guy, that energy guy, even though I didn’t play. So, it’s just what I bring to teams when I come. Yeah, I feel like if I was here(Phoenix) last year and I got traded here instead of Denver, we probably would have won.”

What McGee is saying is not far-fetched. In fact, the Suns may have won last year if McGee was on the roster. The guy just does winning things and makes winning plays. 

In Game 1 of the Finals, Phoenix lost Saric to an ACL injury, which impacted the depth in the frontcourt. Also, the Suns were up 2-0 in the Finals against the Bucks, and maybe a guy like McGee, who has Finals’ experience, could have helped Phoenix get it done. 

Phoenix is tied with the Warriors for the best record in basketball right now, and it appears that they will have a great shot to get back to the NBA Finals, so we’ll put McGee’s beliefs to the test this season. 

Will he be the difference? We’ll find out in June.

Notes:

-The Suns limited the Celtics to just four three-point field goals on 26 attempts(15.4%), the four threes and 15.4% were both season lows by a Suns’ opponent.

Up two (32-30) with 8:16 remaining in the first half, the Suns closed out the second quarter on a 25-9 run to take an 18-point, 57-39 lead into the halftime break. Phoenix’s lead never dwindled below double figures the rest of the game. 

Watch below as McGee talks win over Celtics, and more:

Chris Paul on return to Phoenix: ‘It was an easy decision’

Chris Paul is back in Phoenix with the Suns, and now they try to complete what they started last season. With the return of Paul, Phoenix is running it back and trying to get back to the NBA Finals. 

Last season, the Suns lost to the Bucks in 6 in the NBA Finals after blowing a 2-0 series lead.

At 36, Paul signed a four-year, $120 million contract with the Suns this offseason, and according to the 11-time All-Star, returning to Phoenix was an easy decision.

“It was an easy decision, though,” Paul said about returning to Phoenix. “This is close to my family, and this became my family last year. Not only being here in Phoenix was fun basketball-wise, but it was fun as far as life. Being around these guys, those of you that work know that anytime you go to work and you don’t feel like you’re at work and you really get a chance to enjoy what you’re doing, it’s always a nice feeling. So doing that here with the team that we had, the coaching staff, I wanted to come back.”

Obviously, anytime you get to the Finals, the expectation the following season is to get right back there, and Paul was asked about the expectations for the team this season.

“Man, I think our expectations is to come in and start the process over again,” Paul said. “We got to work, day one. It’s not like you come into this season and be like, ‘Alright, playoffs is set. We’re going to start where we were last year.’ No, there’s a lot of things we can get better at, and we want to get better at. And that’s the whole fun part of the season. Getting as far as we did was cool and well, but when we all saw each other, we were basically reminiscing on the process, all the moments that got us there.”

Getting back to the Finals won’t be easy. The Western Conference opened up for Phoenix last season. The Lakers were banged up in the first round, Denver was not healthy in the second round, and the Clippers limped into the Western Conference finals, so things worked out in Phoenix’s favor.

However, the Suns still has a very good basketball team, and they have Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, and in the offseason, they added JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, and Landry Shamet.

Will it be enough? Not sure; the Lakers, Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz, and Warriors will be strong this season, so a return to the Finals may not happen for the Suns, but Phoenix will definitely be in the mix.

Watch as Paul talks during Suns’ Media Day:

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.

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.

Giannis on block on Ayton: ‘I thought I was going to get dunked on’

If the Phoenix Suns fall short in the NBA Finals, they might look back at Game 4. Phoenix built a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Devin Booker, who had a bounce-back game with 42 points after scoring 10 points on Sunday, had to leave with his fifth foul with over 11 minutes left in the fourth.

When Booker returned midway through the fourth, the Suns still had a three-point lead, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton turned it on. He scored 14 of his 40 points in the final quarter, including the game-winner with just over a minute left in the contest as Milwaukee defeated Phoenix 109-103 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night to tie the series up at 2.

“As far as the fourth quarter, late in the fourth quarter, we just ran sets that allowed me to get to my spots,” Middleton said. “After that, I just got to make reads. Whether to shoot, whether to find an open guy, Giannis(Antetokounmpo) on a roll. It’s just reading the defense at that point. Just luckily, thankfully, I hit some shots.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “But that’s what he does down the stretch. We want him to have the ball. We want him to be the decision-maker. We know he’s going to take big shots, and tonight he was incredible.”

It was not all about Middleton in the fourth. With the Bucks up 101–99 late in the game, Antetokounmpo, who had 26 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 4, made the defensive play of the game and maybe the series. Booker threw an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton, and the first-team all-defensive player made a fantastic block, which saved the game and maybe the series for the Bucks.

“Just a hustle play,” Antetokounmpo said on the block. “I thought I was going to get dunked on, to be honest with you. But you know, going down the stretch, do whatever it takes to win the game. Just put yourself in a position that can win the game. I saw the play coming. I saw that Chris(Devin Booker) was going to throw the lob, and I was just going to jump vertical toward the rim. Hopefully, I can be there in time, and I was there in time and was able to get a good block and go down and get two points. So it was a great hustle play.”

Watch below:

While Booker shined for Phoenix, Chris Paul struggled. He had 10 points(5/13 shooting), seven assists, and five turnovers. The most significant turnover was with 32.4 seconds left and the Suns trailing 101-99. Paul would lose the ball, and ultimately Middleton would put the game away with a layup in transition.

“It was me. I had five of them,” Paul said about the turnovers. “It was bad decision making. That time we were down two, and I tried to cross over right there, slipped, turned it over. I had some bad passes in the first half.”

Game 5 is Saturday night in Phoenix. It’s the best of three at this point. The Suns had an excellent opportunity to win Game 4 and wasted an outstanding performance by Booker, but now they go back to Phoenix and hope to get right. For the Bucks, they have been in an 0-2 hole before and know what it takes to get out of it.

Notes: 

-Antetokounmpo left the game at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter in Game 4. The reason why? He had to “tinkle.”

“How do you guys say politely? I wanted to take a tinkle. A tinkle,” he said. “I wanted to take a tinkle and came back (laughter). That’s polite, right?

-According to Elias Sports, Booker had the most points in Finals history by a player with 10 or fewer points in the previous game.

 

Listen to Go4it! Guest: Former NBA player Charlie Ward

Former NBA player and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward will join us to give his thoughts on the NBA Finals, Ben Simmons, his NBA career, how different things would or could be if he played NFL football, and how much money he could have made if he were allowed to make money on his likeness/image at Florida State.

Follow on Twitter: @goforitgant
Like on Facebook: facebook.com/goforitradio
Subscribe on youtube: youtube.com/goforitgant

Listen below:

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.

Suns’ Williams on Saric: ‘It’s just one of those situations that literally breaks your heart’

The Phoenix Suns won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks on Tuesday night, but it came with a price; forward/center Dario Saric sustained a torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced on Wednesday.

Saric, 27, will miss the rest of the series. The fourth-year player injured his right knee in the first quarter of Game 1.

“It’s just one of those situations that literally breaks your heart,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday. “Dario is a guy that I’ve been with twice. I coached him in Philly, and to get a chance to be with him here, he’s what Suns basketball is about. Hard worker, unbelievable guy, and he was so looking forward to playing in these Finals. And to play a few minutes and have that kind of injury, it was a tough thing to hear this morning when I talked to the staff, and they told me what was going on.

“I spoke with him, and obviously, he was shocked and just felt pretty bad. So I just told the team today to check on him and Karla. He’s got a road ahead of him, but he’s a diligent worker, and we know he’ll be back and better. But it was a shock to see him go down like that.”

Devin Booker added on Saric: “It hurts. It hurt our whole group. Dario is our guy. He’s our energy in the locker room that you guys don’t get to see, but we love him, and we are here with him. Obviously an unfortunate turn of events, but we’re going to reach out to him; we’re going to make sure he’s mentally right and that he’s in the right spirit, and we’re on the road to recovery. As far as the court goes, obviously, we’re going to be missing his presence and the things that he does out there, but everybody is going to have to give a little bit more.”

Saric averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest in the regular season. 

Without Saric, Frank Kaminsky will get more time, but this is a blow for the Suns. Hopefully, for Saric, he can get himself right for next season.

Booker on Paul: ‘So, every time he shoots it, we think it’s going in’

The Phoenix Suns are in the NBA Finals because of their big three of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, and those three were huge in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks on Monday night at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Paul had 32 points and nine assists, Booker scored 27 points, and Deandre Ayton added 22 points and 19 rebounds as the Suns defeated the Buck 118-105.

Phoenix had six players in double figures.

The trio combined for 81 points, each scoring 20-plus points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, tonight marked the fourth time in NBA Finals history that three or more teammates, each making their Finals debut, scored 20-plus points in the same game.

The third quarter was all about Paul, who was 6/7 from the field, including 3/3 from three-point range to score 16 points. After leading by eight points at halftime, the Suns were able to push their lead to as much as 20 points in the third because of Paul.

“When it’s going like that, you just want to space the floor well and let him orchestrate,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said about Paul after the game. “I thought he was making the right plays. They were switching a ton, and we have to offer that space and play faster if he gets off of the ball. But he was making shots, and when he’s in that mode, we just feed off of that. But I don’t have a marker or a segment in the game where I’m like, here he goes. It just happens. Our guys feed off of those moments in the game.”

Phoenix had a lot of success on the pick-and-roll, and according to Booker, the Suns wanted to take advantage of any switches on defense from Milwaukee.

“We have to punish teams for switching 1 through 5 like that,” Booker said. “Like I just heard Chris say, we prepare for any type of defense, and we watch a lot of basketball, and where we have been most successful in that situation is space out. So, every time he(Paul) shoots it, we think it’s going in.”

Paul added: “We just feed off of each other, and it just sort of all game long — this guy, that guy, and we just try to find a way to win.”

Milwaukee did get Giannis Antetokounmpo back for Game 1 of the NBA Finals after he missed the last two games of the Eastern Conference finals due to a hyperextended left knee. Antetokounmpo had 20 points and 17 rebounds on Tuesday night.

“It was tough. You know, obviously, I had to do my best to get back,” Antetokounmpo said. “I had to do my best to get back. Listen to my medical staff. I did the right treatment. Took care of my body and supported my teammates, and now I’m back.”

Antetokounmpo is back, which is good, but Milwaukee is going to have to do a better job on their pick-and-roll defense in Game 2. As stated numerous times in the playoffs, it’s all about adjustments, and the Bucks will have to make adjustments in Game 2 on Thursday night in Phoenix.

Notes:

-Khris Middleton scored a team-high 29 points tonight to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Middleton shot 12-of-26 from the field and knocked down 5 of his 12 three-point attempts. His 26 field goal attempts tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the fourth-most field goal attempts by a Bucks player in an NBA Finals game in franchise history.

-Mikal Bridges added 14 points tonight, his 11th game of this postseason with 10-plus points and first since Game 3 against the Clippers on June 24. The Suns are 10-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.

-Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne both came off the bench tonight to each score 10 points in the win. Both knocked down 2 three-pointers, while Johnson added 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. 

-Phoenix took advantage of the free-throw line on Tuesday night. The Suns were 25/26(96.2%) from line. Booker led the way going 10/10.

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: