Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul, Devin Booker talk the ‘now’ and the ‘next’

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton bothers the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton bothers the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns are set — really set — to close out the Utah Jazz on Sunday in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

The first three games, all of which involved the Suns dominating the third quarter, saw Phoenix with double-digit fourth quarter leads built on the shoulders of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul.

The Phoenix Suns’ comments after Game 3 spoke of their cohesiveness and referenced the potential matchup with the Utah-LA Clippers winner.

The Suns have held 3-0 series leads twice in their history — both times winning to complete the series sweep.

The three key players spoke glowingly of their comfort with teammates, the high quality preparation provided by coach Monty Williams and his assistants and the depth provided by the organization.

Phoenix has found a way to throttle the Nuggets and limit NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

Here’s what Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul and Devin Booker had to say about Game 3 and how their words can point toward big things ahead against the Jazz or Clippers.

Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton talks Nuggets and the future.

“That’s what we do. We emphasized togetherness tonight.”

The Suns have practiced what coaches — and players — have preached all season. The challenge is to quickly close out the Nuggets and take full advantage of the extra time to scout the next opponent.

The Lakers were missing Anthony Davis, the Nuggets were missing Jamal Murray along with a ton of open looks. The Clippers or Jazz will be a real test of this togetherness.

The Suns are up 3-0 for many reasons.

“Sharing the ball. Trusting our two superstars – CP and D-Book — to make plays.”

This is the most important factor concerning the rest of the postseason, however long it goes.

With Booker leading the first three quarters and Paul closing out games — sometimes early in the fourth quarter — Phoenix has its one-two punch. And that’s a recipe usually required to win titles.

Denver certainly hasn’t figured out a way to stop this offense.

“Jokic had 20 rebounds. … I tried. Honestly. I tried. That’s all I can say.”

Ayton has nothing for which to apologize. The guy has been just about everything Suns fans could hope to expect in this postseason. He’s receptive to coaching and has made his mark as a tireless worker.

The mindset for Game 4? “Not getting happy on the farm. We have to finish the job the correct way.”

Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul talks Nuggets and the future.

Paul knows what works in the postseason.

“It’s very satisfying. It’s a credit to our coaching staff. We’re so prepared going into each game. It’s a special team to be a part of.”

Williams and his staff have simply been better than their counterparts in the first two series. That — just like the CP/Booker tandem’s success — is not something that’s going away.

“I can’t say enough about D.A. and what he does for our team. He does all the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Those jump shots that I hit towards the end of the game – those don’t happen without him. … he’s so selfless, man.”

Paul doesn’t have to speak platitudes; he chooses to do so. If ever there were a brilliant example of a successful pet project, it’s Paul’s mentoring of Ayton. In fact, the more this group plays together, the more dangerous it becomes.

“It just shows how balanced our team is. When guys come out, we just tag in.”

The Suns’ depth is so superior to the remaining Western Conference teams, the sky is the limit.

“It’s a fun way to play,” Paul said, adding that his teammates are helping him make a little history, too.

“This is the first time in my career I’ve ever been up 3-0 in a series.”

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker talks Nuggets and the future.

The whole “togetherness” thing is real. And there could be a prize at the end of this run.

“When things get tough, we come together even more. We have our eyes on the prize and we’ll keep going.”

And that “depth” thing.

“I think it’s just the depth that we talked about all the way through.”

With the depth, Booker said, the team is able to “establish the ‘wear down’ effect.”

And the standout job done by Williams and his staff.

“Straight shooters. They’re real with you. No one has hard feelings (with) constructive criticism.”

And the “Deandre is amazing” thing.

“Deandre’s been playing his a– off the whole playoffs. I love it. That takes the pressure off . It creates open shots for everybody.”

As for CP3, Booker mentioned his long-time respect for Paul (“He always chopped it up with me after the game” when Paul’s teams met Booker’s Suns teams.)

“It’s definitely inspiring.”

The Suns hope to turn the page and start the next chapter on Sunday night.

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