Booker: Suns, focused on J7

PHOENIX — On the plane ride home from a blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, Suns star Devin Booker joined a game of cards with his teammates Chris Paul and Jae Crowder and spoke about the Game 7 challenge ahead.

Paul has played in seven Game 7s before, going 3-4 overall but losing the last three. Crowder played in two, splitting them with a first-round loss in 2014 when he played for the Mavericks and a second-round win in 2017 when he played for the Boston Celtics.

For Booker, 25, Sunday will be the first. It is an opportunity that he enjoys.

“I like to come here with everyone focused, up and down from the main office looking out the windows, you can feel their commitment,” Booker said after Saturday’s practice at the Verizon 5G Performance Center. “We thought we had something there [en términos de presión] during the regular season, trying to break the franchise record and this is a whole different beast.”

So far, the series has looked drastically different based on location. In the Suns’ three home games at the Footprint Center, they went 3-0, winning by an average of 19 points. However, in the Suns’ three road games at the American Airlines Center, they have gone 0-3, losing by an average of 15.3 points.

Setting the franchise record for wins with a 64–18 regular season mark earned Phoenix the first overall seed in the postseason and the right to play any deciding Game 7 at home.

“If you just look at the history of the league, home court advantage, that’s a real saying,” Booker said. “It’s always difficult to win away from home. I think the comfort of playing [41] games here instead of two away from home and just play in front of our fans. I’m sure it’s going to be noisy there. It’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be a lot of energy. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Suns coach Monty Williams said his team used Saturday’s practice as a “clean-up” day to prepare for the pivotal matchup. Two main points of emphasis? Take care of the ball and take care of the 3-point line. In Phoenix’s three losses in the series, the Suns averaged 18.7 turnovers, which contributed to the Mavs averaging 16.3 3-pointers in those games.

Like Booker, Williams couldn’t hide her excitement.

“You can feel it,” Williams said. “From the moment we knew we were going to be in a Game 7 to now, the gym is full of intensity. And that’s what playoff basketball should be like.”

Between practice on Saturday and the start of the day on Sunday, the Suns will have to find a way to pass the time without letting the pressure of a potentially season-ending game get to them.

“I’m going to get my nails done right now. Pamper myself a little bit. Get my feet done,” Crowder said. “I just try to check my boxes. I just make sure where my body needs to be, I look at the game plan, the adjustments we’re making. Check those boxes. Watch the second half of the last game. And from that on point, I’ll be ready to go.”

Crowder added that he aired a more comedic TV series, “Atlanta,” on the Suns’ day off Friday and will opt for the more serious drama, “Ozark,” on Saturday. Booker, meanwhile, said he was “going to stay connected” but planned to play the “Call of Duty” video game and find other ways to relax.

“It’s a hot day today, I could go in the pool,” he said.

It won’t be long before the Suns dive into their biggest game of the season.

“Just understanding your season is on the line,” Booker said. “So that adds some good pressure to it, some exciting pressure, and I think we have guys in this gym who accept that. Accept it, accept it, and be ready to perform up to the task.”

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Booker: Suns, focused on J7