Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams fine with ‘pretty thick’ tension at practice after loss to Dallas Mavericks

Monty Williams said the Phoenix Suns were still reeling from their 103-94 Game 3 loss in the Western Conference semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks during Saturday’s practice. Which, the coach added, is just the way he would like his team to be heading into Sunday’s pivotal Game 4.

“We like guys that have a level of chippiness, we love guys that are competitive, we love the tension in our gym after we lose a game,” Williams said. “And it was pretty thick today, which is what I like.”

The Suns jumped out to a six-point lead in the first few minutes Friday, but Dallas took the lead midway through the first quarter and never let it go, pushing it to as many as 18 in the second half.

Phoenix, which lost four straight games in last year’s NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks after starting the series 2-0, squandering the title, only lost consecutive games four times during the course of the regular season. And the Suns never lost more than two in a row.

Williams said letting the loss fester a bit is part of the process his team goes in refocusing themselves for the next challenge.

“When you’re a sore loser, you’re a sore loser,” Williams said. “That’s just the way it is. I don’t see anybody in the playoffs that’s like, ‘Man, I just love the way we lost today.’ I just don’t see that. … You hate losing and you bring it to the gym the next day. Your food doesn’t taste as good, there’s an attitude with it. But it also has to be channeled the right way.”

Several Suns admitted they lost their cool with the officiating during Game 3 — even though Dallas was called for more fouls (19 to 14).

One sequence that was particularly costly came in the third quarter, amidst an 11-0 run for the Mavs, when Devin Booker and Chris Paul argued an out-of-bounds call that replays showed was erroneously signaled against their team. While the Suns stars had their attention turned to the referees, Dallas inbounded the ball and Dorian Finney-Smith was left wide open to hit a 3.

“Last night, it affected us a little bit to where we got distracted and the ball was in play,” Phoenix center Deandre Ayton said Saturday. “We got out of character a little bit and that’s totally not us, being worried about the calls we’re not getting. At the end of the day, we’re not home. We’re not home at all, so we can’t really expect anything. The crowd is against us and it was loud in there so we just got to maintain focus and stick together more.”

That said, the 6-11, 250-pound Ayton said the Suns should test the limits of their physicality early come Sunday.

“Just knowing how the game is officiated,” Ayton said. “Knowing what you can do and what you can’t do when it comes to the legal limit. Just being aggressive the whole time until you hear [a whistle].”

Williams believes his team will find the balance it needs to be on edge, but still execute and give themselves a chance to go up 3-1 on Dallas.

“I tell our guys all the time, I don’t mind a dog, but you got to bring the execution with the dog. You know what I mean? And we’ve been good in that,” Williams said. “Sometimes we let it bother us, I let it bother me, we have to be better. I like the aggression, that’s who we are, but we have to add the elements of execution to that. And that’s a skill and everybody in the playoffs has it.

“This is so far from a regular-season game, it’s not even funny. Physicality, all of it, it’s heightened a bit. So it’s going to bring out a lot of the competitive drives that we all have.”

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