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Reflective Phoenix Suns shift focus, eye rebound in Game 4

MILWAUKEE — Suns forward Jae Crowder’s homecoming game was memorable for a lot of reasons.

The former Marquette standout returned to Wisconsin on Sunday for Game 3 of the NBA Finals with Phoenix leading 2-0 and delivered his best game of the series with six 3-point field goals. He was also on the wrong side of a series of Giannis Antetokounmpo highlights, including a personal seven-point run in the second quarter.

For the first time in the Finals, the Suns rose in Milwaukee on Monday wondering what the rebound feels like.

“Whenever we win, we don’t get too high. You just move on to the next one,” said Crowder, who was also served a technical late in the game after one physical exchange with Antetokounmpo, who has back-to-back 40-point games. “You have a loss, you do the same. You got to do it with more focus, obviously. But I’ve been preaching that. That’s all. That’s my message, is just respond to it in the right way and do it collectively and we’ll be fine.”

Crowder said the Suns are shifting their focus and reminding one another character wins this time of year.

“We’ll be fine. We’re going to watch film, going to talk this out. Going to man up to it,” Crowder said. “Coach is going to do a good job of showing what went wrong. We got to man up and do what we’ve been doing all year: just respond to it, respond to a defeat, respond to things not going our way. Like you said, we have been doing it all year. So it’s no change now.”

Suns coach Monty Williams spent more time counseling than coaching in the second half of Game 3.

He consoled Devin Booker, who suffered a three-of-14 shooting night in defeat, and reminded DeAndre Ayton to keep his eyes focused forward. Ayton was saddled with foul trouble, souring his strong start with 16 points in 14 minutes. And he debated 36-year-old point guard Chris Paul on the sideline during the fourth quarter, when the Bucks ballooned their lead to 20 and beyond.

Williams encouraged all of them to leave the Game 3 loss and go get the next one.

“Just regroup, refocus, go over film and respond,” Booker said. “We’re on the road and we have to come in with the energy and effort. Like you said, the 50/50 balls, the offensive rebounds, protect the paint — just the details that we talked about. But that’s what the playoffs is. That’s why it’s a series, and we have some room for improvement.”

Paul had nine assists in Game 3 and moved up another spot on the all-time postseason assist list. He passed Kobe Bryant in Game 2 and moved ahead of Scottie Pippen on Sunday into ninth place with 1,050 postseason assists.

Next on the list? Former Suns great Steve Nash, head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, is currently 11 assists ahead of Paul and one behind Larry Bird. Bird is seventh with 1,062 assists.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer plans to continue to find spots to play Bobby Portis, a high-energy sub who draws chants and ovations from the home crowd with screens, second-effort rebounds and chippy exchanges with opponents. Portis went chest-to-chest with Crowder as Budenholzer removed Portis from the game on Sunday. — Reuters

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