PHOENIX — On his way home after losing in explosive fashion to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, Suns star Devin Booker joins a card game with teammates Chris Paul and Jae Crowder and discusses their Game 7 challenges ahead.
Paul has played in the previous seven Game 7s, playing 3-4 overall but losing his last three games. The crowd has been in two, splitting them, with a first-round loss in 2014 when he played for the Mavericks and a second-round win in 2017 as a member of the Boston Celtics.
For 25-year-old Booker, Sunday will be a first for him. This was an opportunity he enjoyed.
“I love coming here with everyone locked out, top to bottom of the front office looking through the window — you can feel their attitude,” Booker said after Saturday’s practice at the Verizon 5G Performance Center. “That’s why we play this sport. We think we have something going on there [in terms of pressure] during the regular season, trying to break franchise records, and it’s a very different beast.”
So far the series looks very different depending on the location. In the Suns’ three home games at the Footprint Center, they are 3-0 up, winning by an average of 19 points. However, in their three away games at the American Airlines Center, they have lost 0-3, losing by an average of 15.3 points.
Setting a franchise record in wins with 64-18 in the regular season makes Phoenix the No. 1 in the postseason and the right to play any deciding Game 7 at their home.
“If you just look at the history of the league, the home-court advantage, it’s a real saying,” Booker said. “It’s always difficult to win on the road. I think just the convenience of playing  game here rather than two on the road and only playing in front of our fans. I’m sure there will be a commotion there. It will be interesting, it will be a lot of energy. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Suns coach Monty Williams said his team used Saturday’s practice as a “clean up” day to prepare for an important game. Two main points are emphasized: guarding the basketball and guarding the 3-point line. In Phoenix’s three losses in the series, the Suns averaged 18.7 turnovers, contributing to the Mavs averaging 16.3 making 3-pointers in those games.
Like Booker, Williams couldn’t hide his anticipation.
“You can feel it,” Williams said. “From the moment we knew we were going to be in Game 7 until now, the gym was full of intensity. And that’s how basketball playoffs should be.”
Between Saturday’s practice and Sunday’s tipoff, the Suns must find a way to pass the time without letting the pressures of a potentially season-ending game overtake them.
“I’m going to get my nails done now. Pamper myself a bit. Get my feet done,” Crowder says. “I was just trying to tick my boxes. Make sure where my body needs to be, look at the game plan, the adjustments we made. Tick the boxes. Watch the second half of the last game. And from there come on, I’ll be ready to go.”
Crowder added that he is airing the more comedic TV series, “Atlanta,” on the Suns holiday on Friday and will opt for the more serious drama “Ozark” on Saturday. Booker, meanwhile, said he was “on transfer” but plans to play the Call of Duty video game and find other ways to relax.
“It’s so hot today, I might as well go in the pool,” he said.
Soon the Suns will enter their most important game of the season.
“Just understanding your season is at stake,” Booker said. “So it adds good pressure to it, exciting pressure and I think we have people in this gym embracing that. Embrace it, accept it and be ready to go for it.”