Phoenix Suns do or die: 3 ways frustration can become celebration

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

Phoenix Suns fans don’t want to whine; the team has been playing with house money for a month or more.

But there’s little doubt that the Milwaukee Bucks were using a missile-guidance system — probably against NBA rules and regulations — during Game 5 in Phoenix on Saturday night.

The Bucks were a little bit lucky, too (Jrue Holiday’s brilliant steal and subsequent game-clinching lob to Giannis Antetokounmpo nothwithstanding).

The Phoenix Suns saw the Bucks hit seemingly every shot and find every loose ball in the pivotal Game 5 loss, but there is hope for Phoenix to stun the NBA community one more time.

With LeBron James courtside — supporting his friend Chris Paul and also stealthily continuing to recruit him — Phoenix spoiled a Devin Booker effort for the ages but produced a dramatic final few minutes that points to some hope as the series heads back to Milwaukee.

Phoenix Suns frustration to celebration No. 1: The changing luck

The first quarter showed what the Suns can do when the ball moves — when the team employs its patented .5 seconds plan — and the transition baskets thrilled the home crowd.

And then the strange-bordering-on-impossible happened.

Holiday was 9-11, scoring 21 points with 11 assists — in the second and third quarter alone.

The Bucks hit a crazy 70 percent in the second quarter — and then 71 percent in the third quarter.

The Bucks were 32-for-45 from the field over those two quarters.

And yet, as frustrating as that extended run became, the Suns had a shot late in the fourth quarter.

In a fourth quarter that stirred the home crowd to fever levels, the Suns “held” the Bucks to 42.1 percent shooting and converted 11-of-19 field-goal tries themselves (57.9 percent) and outrebounded Milwaukee 11-9.

That’s a point for focus when Game 6 tips off on Tuesday in Wisconsin.

Phoenix Suns frustration to celebration No. 2: The Chris Paul renaissance

There’s still something not quite right with his left hand but … .

Chris Paul played at his feisty best — and the numbers rebounded to a more CP3-level of effectiveness.

He played all 12 minutes in the fourth, delivering three of his team-high 11 assists and hitting all four field-goal attempts as he completed his night with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting — including a perfect 3-for-3 on his triples — and turned over the ball only once.

Paul was among three Suns who needed to step up their game for Phoenix to stay in the title hunt. He did his part, convincingly — for a guy who’s very likely not physically 100 percent (despite his protestations to the contrary).

The two off days should continue to work in the Suns’ favor, with nice comeback effort from Paul serving as further fuel for higher expectations on Tuesday.

Phoenix Suns frustration to celebration No. 3: There is no frustration

To be accurate, there was definitely frustration among the Suns coaches, players and fans.

But breakout star Devin Booker wasn’t having it. He likely immediately turned to the team’s “one game” mantra and began thinking about ways to overcome Milwaukee in the Suns’ first elimination game of the postseason.

In fact, he’s not interested in talking about anyone’s frustration.

Booker scored 40 points on 33 shots, but pointed to his brilliant third quarter as part of the concern. Phoenix was just “exchanging baskets,” he said. The Suns needed to have everyone sharing the ball, moving and defending at elite levels.

That said, Booker almost carried his team over the finish line on a night that the Bucks’ big three of Holiday, Giannis and Khris Middleton went 38-for-66 (!) from the field.

Can’t happen again, right? (right?).

light. Related Story. Suns could use better officiating

Without a missile-guidance system and with a typical All-Star performance from Chris Paul and Booker, the conversation could continue on Wednesday in advance of a winner-take-all battle Thursday in Phoenix.