‘Tighten the screws’: As Suns near first playoffs since 2010, keys to success emerge

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (right) plays a large leadership role with the team and will need to continue that during the playoffs. Photo by Alina Nelson/Cronkite News

By Trevor Booth | Cronkite News

Suns coach Monty Williams has used several phrases that stuck with his players throughout their 2020-21 season. Asked about one that stood out, veteran forward Jae Crowder recalled a tangible example that epitomizes his team’s mentality as it approaches its first playoff appearance since 2009-10.

“One day, he gave everyone screws, like wrenches, a screwdriver, he passed them all around,” Crowder said. “We was like, ‘What is this?’ We’re all holding screwdrivers.

“He’s like, ‘We got to continue to tighten the screws.’”

Suns Forward Jae Crowder

Entering its final two regular-season contests against the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix still has multiple areas it needs to tighten up. Before their thrilling 118-117 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, the Suns lost three of four games for the first time since late January, a product of them loosening their grip on an otherwise sturdy season.

Phoenix lost consecutive games to the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively, when matchup issues and breakdowns were at the forefront of their struggles. Lakers forward Anthony Davis had 42 points and 12 rebounds against a smaller Suns rotation, while the Warriors shot 36 of 45 from inside the 3-point line and used a 30-18 fourth quarter to win that game late.

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