July 24, 2021

Suns unsure of Craig’s status for Game 3 due to knee injury

MILWAUKEE (AP) As the Phoenix Suns’ NBA Finals lead is growing, their rotation could be shrinking.

Suns coach Monty Williams said Torrey Craig’s status for Sunday’s Game 3 is uncertain after the reserve forward hurt his right knee during a collision with a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo in the third quarter of Phoenix’s 118-108 Game 2 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

Phoenix already is playing without reserve forward Dario Saric, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in the first quarter of Phoenix’s 118-105 Game 1 triumph on Tuesday. Craig’s injury isn’t nearly as severe.

”He got some testing done yesterday,” Williams said Saturday. ”All of that came back clean, but he’s still sore. So I can’t make much of a statement on his availability or anything like that. We’re going to get through today. We’ll have a light practice today and put him through some paces. We’ll be able to make a better statement about his availability tomorrow, and then we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Williams mentioned Cam Johnson and Abdel Nader as players who could have bigger roles if Craig is unavailable. Johnson has averaged 9 points and 19.5 minutes in the finals. Nader has played just one minute over the first two games of this series.

Suns forward Jae Crowder is very familiar with the city of Milwaukee after playing for Marquette from 2010-12. Crowder says he still knows some of the Fiserv Forum employees who also worked at the Bradley Center when the Bucks and Marquette both played there.

But that doesn’t mean he’s making restaurant recommendations to his teammates. He’s making sure his favorite local restaurants are bringing food to the Suns’ hotel to make sure they don’t have to go out.

”You won’t see us in the city,” Crowder sad. ”We’re going to get a lot of stuff catered to us from a variety of restaurants here. A couple of us are vegan. I’ve talked to the training staff more than my teammates about food because we’re not leaving the hotel. We’re eating in. We’re locked in. But I do have a few suggestions for my teammates that we’re going to take advantage of while we’re here.”

Milwaukee’s 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals hasn’t impacted Antetokounmpo’s sense of humor.

The two-time MVP did his best impression of former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch at the start of his news conference. He responded to the first question by saying, ”I’m just here not to get fined,” before breaking into laughter.

”We all understand what kind of game we are getting ourselves into tomorrow,” said Antetokounmpo, who scored 42 points in Game 2. ”So we know what we got to do. But at the end of the day, you got to keep it light. You cannot tell yourself, `Oh, it’s the finals. You got to do this.’

”There’s so much pressure, man. No, like, it’s still basketball. It’s easy to say, hard to do, but at the same time, you have to try to approach it that way. Just got to keep it light. Got to keep the ball light. You got to keep the atmosphere light.”

Suns forward Mikal Bridges, who scored 27 points in Game 2, says playing on Villanova’s 2016 and 2018 national championship teams helped prepare him for this stage.

Bridges says it wasn’t necessarily the NCAA Tournament competition that helped him so much, as he noted the NBA Finals is a whole different level. But he said experiencing Villanova’s championship culture and staying there four years made him a better player.

”I did four years, and you come out a man and it prepares you for the real world,” Bridges said. ”I’m telling you, it’s just made NBA life way easier. When I first got into the league, going to `Nova, I can’t picture myself coming out of high school or doing a year or two somewhere else and going into the league. I’d feel like fresh, young, don’t know what to do with myself. But `Nova really got me being a man coming into the league and things like that.”

Villanova’s championship teams also included Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo, who was the most outstanding player of the 2018 Final Four. DiVincenzo isn’t playing in the Finals after tearing a ligament in his left ankle during Milwaukee’s first-round series with Miami.

Williams’ inspiring pep talk to Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton late in Game 2 has gained plenty of attention on social media over the last couple of days.

But Ayton says the moment wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

”You have to understand, that’s Monty every day,” Ayton said. ”You all just captured one moment. That’s Monty every second, every day, just making sure he uplifts his players, and he’s instilling wisdom into us.”

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