To get Kevin Durant and Devin Booker loose, Suns could turn to TJ Warren and Terrence Ross, says Williams

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By Webdesk

In Game 2 of their second-round series against the Denver Nuggets, the Phoenix Suns opened the fourth quarter with a lineup of Cameron Payne, Devin Booker, Damion Lee, Torrey Craig, and Jock Landale. Booker played 45 minutes into the game, Kevin Durant played 44 and both had to do some heavy lifting on offense, especially after Chris Paul left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury.

Paul will not play in Game 3 on Friday and will likely be eliminated after that. If the Suns want to make this series interesting, they have to help their stars. Phoenix’s defense was more than good enough to tie the series on Monday, but it lost 97-87 as it was unable to score, especially on the stretch. In the fourth quarter, the Suns were outscored 27–14 in the fourth quarter, and for a few meaningful last minute buckets, they shot 5 for 22 from the field, missing all nine of their three-point attempts.

So how exactly is Coach Monty Williams going to make Durant and Booker’s lives easier?

He could turn to two mid-season additions: forward TJ Warren and wing Terrence Ross.

“Those are two guys who could see significantly more time,” Williams told reporters via the Arizona Republicby Duane Rankin.

Acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in the Durant trade, Warren had a two-minute stint in Game 2 of Phoenix’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers and a four-minute stint in the next game, but is otherwise glued to the bench during the playoffs. Although he was inefficient in 16 regular season appearances after the trade, many of them were equally brief stints, some in waste time. In late March, he scored 15 points off the bench against the Sacramento Kings and 16 against the Philadelphia 76ers on consecutive nights, the only two games in which the Suns played him for more than 21 minutes.

Signed in the buyout market, Ross played crap in Game 1 against the Clippers and got a five-minute stint in the series opener against Denver in which he missed three jumpers. He was a bigger part of the rotation than Warren during the regular season and had a pair of scoring explosions – 24 points in 23 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 30 points in 27 minutes against the Kings, going the same 6-for-10 off a 3-point range in both — off the Phoenix bench.

Like one of Warren or Ross — or suspected starter Cameron Payne, Lee or Landry Shamet (DNP in Game 2) — Going off on Friday would be incredibly useful for the Suns. However, that does not necessarily have to happen to win. A few of these role players just have to force the Nuggets to guard them.

For two games, Denver was content with Durant and Booker at halfcourt and let the non-stars take 3s. It put two on the ball against Durant and Booker in pick-and-roll, inviting Craig, Landale, Josh Okogie and Bismack Biyombo to play in 4-on-3 situations. It has even lived with Paul who suffered a fall on his midrange jersey. This is a mark of respect for Booker and Durant and a huge disrespect for everyone else.

“I better put more scorers on the floor and live with the warts that come with it, just to free those guys so they don’t have to do it on the floor every time,” Williams said. “We will make those adjustments accordingly.”

It’s an obvious adjustment, but also a risky one. The Suns haven’t given any minutes to Okogie, Craig, and Biyombo because their coaching staff is a bunch of idiots; they do it because those guys can defend. Against a top-level offense like Denver’s, trading defense for offense could just mean losing in a different way. At this point, however, it’s worth a try. This skinny Phoenix team isn’t built to win games where Durant and Booker don’t rack up points or assists, which is doubly where Paul is now out of the picture. With the season effectively on the line, Williams must try to get them going by any means necessary.

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