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Suns get days off, keeping close eye on potential NBA Finals opponents

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Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, second from left, hugs Chris Paul, left, and Jae Crowder, second from right, as Devin Booker stands by as time runs out in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. The Suns won the game 130-103 to take the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams gave his team a well-deserved two days off after Wednesday’s win against the Los Angeles Clippers put them in the NBA Finals.

But in what should be absolutely no surprise to anyone who has followed the team this year, he got word that plenty of his players were still getting work in at the team’s practice facility on Thursday and Friday.

The Suns returned to practice on Saturday, a day that could end with the league’s Finals matchup being locked in.

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals takes place in Atlanta, as the Hawks are hosting the Milwaukee Bucks. With the Bucks up 3-2, if they win, Game 1 of the Finals will be set for Tuesday night in Phoenix between Milwaukee and the Suns. If the Hawks get a victory, Game 7 will be on Monday and the Suns wouldn’t play Game 1 at home against the winner until Thursday.

In terms of watching the game and scouting ahead, Williams made a good point in that the Suns were just in this position last round.

When Phoenix swept the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers and Utah Jazz were only three games into the Western Conference’s other semifinal.

“You’re watching both sides, taking notes, the coaches and I stay in constant contact, Chris (Paul) and I will text or talk during the games,” Williams said Saturday. “It’s weird but we’ve done it already so we have an idea of how to try to attack this kind of situation. We can’t focus on one team, but because you have coaches throughout the year that have their teams, we have assistant coaches who are locked in on their teams.

“And then I watch it from both sides, looking at rotations and different adjustments that they’re making throughout the series. That’s where my mind goes as far as looking at both sides, and I’m glad I have DVR so I can rewind in real-time and then I get the game on my computer the next day so I can watch it again.”

Paul said the team got together to watch Game 5 on Thursday and that he’s sure they’ll be talking again while watching on Saturday.

“That’s just the way we are,” he said Saturday. “That’s the way we’ve been all season long and it’s fun to be a part of a group and a team like that.”

PAUL’S HAND

After the Clippers win, Paul surprisingly revealed he had partially torn ligaments in his right hand from an injury sustained in Game 3 of that series. Paul said he had an MRI on his wrist on Tuesday, and that he ditched having his fingers taped up in Game 6 of the series after doing so for Games 4 and 5.

When asked how he went through the process of the injury and how he’s feeling now, Paul said the following:

“Managed it well, good,” he said. “These days that we’ve had off have been really good. We all get a chance to rest up a little bit before we get it going again.”

Paul had poor shooting numbers in Games 3-5, something that already could have been explained by his 11 days in COVID-19 protocols prior to that when he missed Games 1 and 2. He was tremendous in Game 6, going 16-of-24 from the floor for 41 points.

JOHNSON ‘FINE’

Williams said that Suns wing Cam Johnson is fine and ready to go after missing Game 6 due to a non-COVID-related illness.

Johnson had an excellent series against the Clippers, averaging 10.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 21-of-30 (70.0%) from the field.

SCENE AT SKY HARBOR

The Suns were greeted by thousands of fans at the airport Wednesday night after wrapping up the series, a scene Williams said was “unlike anything I’d ever seen before.”

Williams thought it was a cool moment for his players and the city while also shouting out the police department helping manage the environment safely.

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