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Cabrera's double in 10th lifts D-backs over Dodgers 6-5

Cabrera's double in 10th lifts D-backs over Dodgers 6-5

PHOENIX — It was far from certain that Asdrúbal Cabrera would be wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform on Friday night.But MLB’s trade deadline during the afternoon came and went, and the last-place Diamondbacks didn’t deal him to a contender. So the veteran infielder was in the lineup, reached base five times and delivered the game-winning hit.Cabrera’s soft, looping double into left field scored Daulton Varsho in the 10th inning and the Diamondbacks beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5. The 35-year-old Cabrera said the at-bat went just like he planned.“I was looking for something I could hit to left field,” Cabrera said. “I was seeing the ball really good today, walked three times, trying to put the ball in play to bring that run in.”Varsho started the 10th inning on second base. Jimmy Nelson (1-2) retired Josh VanMeter on a slow liner for the first out and then Cabrera followed with a blooper that fell in front of left fielder A.J. Pollock. He couldn’t fire home fast enough to catch the speedy Varsho, who scored standing up.“Thankfully for us, Asdrubal’s still here and he got the big hit,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.The Diamondbacks still have the worst record in the majors at 33-71, but have played better since the All-Star break with a 7-5 mark. VanMeter had three doubles and three RBIs. Cabrera had two hits and three walks.Matt Peacock (4-6) got the win by pitching a scoreless 10th inning. Los Angeles fell to 1-11 in extra-inning games.“We clearly haven’t played well in extra innings,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.The Dodgers trailed 5-2 going into the seventh. Billy McKinney and Matt Beaty hit back-to-back singles before Chris Taylor drove them home with a triple to deep right center, making it 5-4.But then the Diamondbacks brought in lefty Miguel Aguilar — who was making his big-league debut — and the 29-year-old promptly struck out Max Muncy, retired Justin Turner on a pop out and the coaxed Corey Seager into a groundout to strand Taylor at third.The Dodgers rallied again in the eighth and Albert Pujols hit a two-out, pinch-hit single — the 3,287th hit of his career — to tie the game at 5-all.D-backs starter Zac Gallen pitched six innings and gave up two runs on five hits and one walk. He struck out eight. Gallen was cruising until the sixth when Chris Taylor led off with a solo homer. The Dodgers then loaded the bases but only pushed one more run across on A.J. Pollock’s sacrifice fly that made it 3-2.The Dodgers were playing their first game since acquiring three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and All-Star Trea Turner earlier Friday in a deal with the Washington Nationals. They also added left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy in a trade with the Royals.None of those players were with the team on Friday. Scherzer and Duffy are expected to arrive on Saturday, while Turner is out on the COVID-19 injured list and expected to miss at least one more week. Roberts said Scherzer would likely make his first start for the Dodgers on Wednesday.Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin walked the bases loaded in the second and Josh VanMeter made him pay with a two-out, two-run double to give the D-backs a 2-0 lead. Gonsolin then walked Asdrubal Cabrera and was pulled from the game after just 1 2/3 innings.“Just wasn’t sharp with his stuff, the walks,” Roberts said of Gonsolin. “Any game, walks are gonna hurt you. We had nine tonight. That’s just not good enough.”Phil Bickford got out of the jam by getting Kole Calhoun to fly out to left for the third out. Gonsolin walked five and threw just 24 strikes out of 55 pitches.D-BACKS COVID-19 ISSUESThe Diamondbacks are dealing with their first COVID-19 outbreak of the season after reliever Noé Ramirez and outfielder Stuart Fairchild tested positive for the virus. Lovullo said both players are experiencing symptoms.Three other players — pitchers Joe Mantiply and Riley Smith, along with Pavin Smith — were also put on the injured list due to contact tracing.That was partially the reason for a flurry of D-backs roster moves. C Carson Kelly, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, LHP Miguel Aguilar, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Stefan Crichton and INF Drew Ellis were all activated. INF Jake Hager also was available for the D-backs after being claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.SEAGER RETURNSThe Dodgers activated Seager from the 60-day injured list on Friday and he was in the starting lineup, playing shortstop and batting cleanup. Seager missed more than two months with a broken right hand after being hit by a pitch on May 15.NICE DEBUTDrew Ellis hit a pinch-hit, line drive single to left field in his first big league at-bat in the sixth inning. The 25-year-old Ellis was the team’s second-round draft pick in 2017 and played in college at Louisville.Ellis scored later in the inning to give the Diamondbacks a 4-2 lead.UP NEXTThe Diamondbacks will send RHP Merrill Kelly (7-7, 4.39 ERA) to the mound on Saturday. The Dodgers haven’t announced their starter and manager Dave Roberts said it will likely be a bullpen game.———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Young nucleus intact, Suns wait to see if Chris Paul returns

Young nucleus intact, Suns wait to see if Chris Paul returns

Chris Paul took a risk this season deciding that a young, unproven Phoenix Suns team was worth joining in his pursuit of his first NBA championshipBy DAVID BRANDT AP Sports WriterJuly 21, 2021, 8:31 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — In his 16th season, Chris Paul took a risk, deciding that a young, unproven Phoenix Suns team was worth joining in his pursuit of his first NBA championship.To the surprise of just about everyone outside the locker room, it nearly worked.Now the biggest immediate question for the Suns is this: will Paul be back to try again?“I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking,” Paul said. “That’s out. So, back to work.”The hurt was fresh for the Suns on Tuesday night after the Milwaukee Bucks won their first championship in 50 years, beating Phoenix 105-98 to win the NBA Finals in six games. The Suns won the first two games of the series, only to lose the next four. The franchise has never won a title, losing in the Finals in 1976, 1993 and 2021.But in retrospect, it was still a remarkable season for the Suns, who were one of the league’s worst teams in recent years.The Suns not only made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, they made it all the way to the NBA Finals. Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges grew into a formidable nucleus around Paul, who at 36 years old usually played like a man a decade younger.Phoenix should have most of its rotation back next season. One of the few question marks is Paul, who can opt out of his 2021-22 contract and become a free agent. He sounded like a man who wanted to return to the Suns on Tuesday night. He brushed off a question about his future, saying “everything else will take care of itself.”“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough,” Paul said. “So, we got to figure it out. I think for me I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”But nothing is certain. The business side of the game could interfere for the Suns, who have some long-term roster decisions to make. Ayton and Bridges are entering the last year of their rookie contracts. Backup point guard Cameron Payne is a free agent.Plus, there’s the realization that Paul will be pushing 37 years old. The list of NBA point guards who are still playing at that age — let alone playing well — is very short. The championship window for Booker, Ayton and Bridges might be just opening, but there’s not much time for Paul.The Suns know they missed a great opportunity.“I just don’t take it for granted,” Suns coach Monty Williams said, his voice cracking. “It’s hard to get here and I wanted it so bad, you know. It’s hard to process right now. It’s hard. That’s all.”With or without Paul, the Suns grew up a ton this summer. Booker will be just 25 years old next season and will get more experience playing for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. Bridges will be 25, too. Ayton turns 23 in a few days. There’s plenty of hope for the future, even if the present doesn’t necessarily feel that way.“I think we learned a lot just by being in it,” Booker said. “It was a lot of our first times in the playoffs, let alone the Finals. But it was a great experience for us. I think we set a foundation and a base for our team, and we all have stuff to work on and we understand that.”So, we’re going to take this hurt and bring it into the summer and continue to get better.”———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sport

Smith, Escobar lead Diamondbacks over Pirates 4-2

Smith, Escobar lead Diamondbacks over Pirates 4-2

Caleb Smith pitched 6 2/3 stellar innings, Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run homer for the second straight game and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2By DAVID BRANDT AP Sports WriterJuly 20, 2021, 6:07 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — Caleb Smith pitched 6 2/3 stellar innings, Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run homer for the second straight game and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Monday night.It was a nice bounce-back outing for Smith (3-6), who was rocked for nine earned runs in one inning during a 22-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers just before the All-Star break. The left-hander even earned his first career stolen base, surprising the Pirates by getting a huge jump and swiping second.“Swiping bags like it’s my job,” Smith said grinning.D-backs manager Torey Lovullo was more impressed with Smith’s performance on the mound, which was the fourth straight good outing for the team’s starting pitchers. It’s been a rare good sign for a team that has the worst record in the majors at 28-68.“Fantastic job,” Lovullo said. “It was a great mixture of pitches, quick early outs.”Smith gave up two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven. Joakim Soria allowed two baserunners but pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.Escobar — who was the D-backs’ only All-Star representative last week — continued his solid season by ripping a low liner over the right-field wall for his 22nd homer to make it 4-0. The 32-year-old will be a tempting addition for a playoff-contending team as MLB’s trade deadline approaches. He’s in the final year of his contract, plays multiple positions and is a switch hitter.Arizona’s David Peralta added a double and triple. Escobar’s homer and Peralta’s extra-base hits came after the two had a heated argument following the third inning. Peralta said the argument wasn’t a big deal and a simple misunderstanding.“They’re two fiercely passionate athletes that care an unbelieveable amount about winning baseball games,” Lovullo said.Chase De Jong (1-4) took the loss for the Pirates, giving up four runs over five innings. He walked two and gave up seven hits, including three homers.Pirates manager Derek Shelton said De Jong had good moments but missed his spots with pitches too many times, especially on Escobar’s two-run homer.“When you go down and in to Escobar, you’re going to pay for it,” Shelton said.The Pirates pulled within 4-2 in the seventh after Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds hit back-to-back RBI singles. Joe Mantiply struck out All-Star Adam Frazier with the bases loaded to end the rally.Pavin Smith and Josh VanMeter hit back-to-back solo homers in the second that nearly landed in an identical spot behind the right-center field wall, pushing the D-backs to a 2-0 lead. It was Smith’s eighth homer of the year and VanMeter’s third.NICE PLAYDe Jong made an excellent play in the third when he took a hard-hit grounder off the inside of his left knee from David Peralta. The pitcher recovered, chasing after the ball along the first-base line, picking it up and flipping to first baseman John Nogowski for the out.Shelton said De Jong’s knee was bruised and swollen after the third but he wanted to keep pitching.“I give him credit for grinding through,” Shelton said. “Our bullpen was a little strapped.”MAKING MOVESThe Pirates acquired LHP Dillon Peters from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for cash considerations. Pittsburgh sent him to Triple-A Indianapolis.The 28-year-old has a 7-8 record in 31 MLB games, including 24 starts. He’s spent the whole 2021 season in Triple-A and has a 2-2 record with a 4.35 ERA.RHP Kyle Crick was designated for assignment to make room for Peters on the 40-man roster.UP NEXTThe Pirates will send LHP Tyler Anderson (5-8, 4.35) to the mound for the second game of the three-game series on Tuesday. The Diamondbacks will counter with RHP Taylor Widener (1-0, 2.54).———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Kelly, Escobar lead Diamondbacks over Cubs 6-4

Kelly, Escobar lead Diamondbacks over Cubs 6-4

Merrill Kelly threw eight solid innings, Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run homer and the Arizona Diamondbacks avoided a three-game sweep with a 6-4 win over the Chicago CubsBy DAVID BRANDT AP Sports WriterJuly 19, 2021, 12:16 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks have been a bad baseball team for a big chunk of this season and own the worst record in the majors to prove it.The only exception — at least in recent weeks — is when Merrill Kelly takes the mound.Kelly threw eight efficient innings, Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run homer and the Arizona Diamondbacks avoided a three-game sweep with a 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.Kelly (6-7) needed just 75 pitches to navigate the Cubs’ lineup through eight innings and threw 59 strikes.“It’s what I try to do,” Kelly said. “Get quick outs, be efficient. I’m not the 95, 98 mile per hour guy who punches everyone out.”Kelly was helped by two spectacular catches by Kole Calhoun. The right fielder made a diving grab on Patrick Wisdom’s sinking line drive in the second inning and saved an extra-base hit in the third when he chased down Anthony Rizzo’s long drive into the right-field corner.“He looks like Superman out there,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.Kelly was pulled in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double to Kris Bryant and an RBI single to Javier Baez. The right-hander gave up four runs and six hits, struck out six and walked none while throwing 82 pitches.The D-backs have won five of the past six games Kelly has started.“It’s a belief in the game plan, it’s conviction with his pitches and trusting the guys around him,” Lovullo said. “It starts and stops with starting pitching each night. … He’s as good as we’ve got.”Arizona was able to take advantage of a sloppy performance by Chicago’s pitchers with 11 walks. Joakim Soria earned his fourth save, one day after blowing a 2-1 lead by giving up three runs in the ninth.Willson Contreras — who had the big two-run homer in the ninth off Soria on Saturday — struck out looking on a full-count breaking ball right down the middle to end Sunday’s game.Christian Walker and Nick Ahmed both had two hits. Josh Rojas reached base five times, walking four times. Escobar’s homer was his 21st of the season and put the Diamondbacks ahead 6-2 in the eighth.Cubs starter Zach Davies gave up two runs over 4 2/3 innings. He gave up six hits, walked four and struck out three. Manager David Ross said he was pleased his lineup continued to fight through nine innings but couldn’t overcome all the walks from his pitchers.“The free passes are frustrating but other than that we’re playing pretty good baseball,” Ross said.Arizona pushed ahead 4-2 with two runs in the seventh after Cubs pitcher Dan Winkler (1-2) loaded the bases with one out by walking Eduardo Escobar, hitting Walker with a pitch and walking Pavin Smith. Ahmed got an RBI when he hit a weak ground ball that scored Escobar. Walker scored when Rex Brothers threw a wild pitch.Arizona led 2-0 after five innings but the Cubs tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth. Robinson Chirinos led off the inning with a ground rule double and Bryant drove him home with two outs by slicing a long double into the right-field corner. Javier Báez followed with a line drive single that scored Bryant.ODD DOUBLE PLAYThe Diamondbacks left the bases loaded for the third time of the game in the seventh after a strange double play ended the inning.Calhoun hit a grounder to first and Rizzo immediately fired home to get a force out. Calhoun had to dive out of the way of Rizzo’s throw and didn’t jump back up immediately, which gave Chirinos time to throw to Rizzo at first for the double play.Calhoun said it was a strange, confusing play and it was his fault he didn’t scramble immediately to first after diving to the ground.“You win the ball game and it’s easy to laugh off,” Calhoun said.MAKING MOVESThe Cubs claimed 1B Frank Schwindel off waivers from the Oakland A’s and optioned him to Triple-A Iowa. The 29-year-old Schwindel was 3 of 20 (.150) for the A’s this year with one homer.TRAINER’S ROOMDiamondbacks: OF Ketel Marte and INF Asdrúbal Cabrera both did agility work on the field before the game. Both players are recovering from hamstring injuries.UP NEXTThe Cubs stay on the road and start a four-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. Chicago will start RHP Alec Mills (4-2, 4.84 ERA). He will face St. Louis RHP Jake Woodford (1-1, 4.62)The Diamondbacks host a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates beginning Monday. Arizona will send LHP Caleb Smith (2-6, 4.54) to the mound to face Pittsburgh RHP Chase De Jong (1-3, 5.59).———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Resilient Suns? Down 3-2 in Finals, it's time to find out

Resilient Suns? Down 3-2 in Finals, it's time to find out

The Phoenix Suns like to believe they’re a resilient bunchBy DAVID BRANDT AP Sports WriterJuly 18, 2021, 9:04 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns like to believe they’re a resilient bunch.Now is one of their few chances this season to prove it.The Suns will be facing an elimination game for the first time in this postseason when they travel to Milwaukee for Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night. Phoenix won the first two games of the series before the Bucks rallied to win the next three, including Saturday night’s thrilling 123-119 victory in Game 5.It’s the first time since January that the Suns have lost three straight games.Down 3-2 in the NBA Finals is never an ideal situation, especially with the Suns facing Game 6 on the road. But Phoenix center Deandre Ayton said there’s nothing left to do but embrace the current scenario.“Tables are turned now,” Ayton said. “Now we’re the desperate team. We had our chances of being up and trying to finish the job, now we’re in the same position that they were in. They’re up and now we got to go get it. That’s why it’s a little bit more fun.”The Suns missed a great opportunity to take control of the series in Game 5. They jumped out a 37-21 lead in the first quarter but fell apart on defense in the second and third, giving up 79 points over the two quarters.The Suns nearly pulled off an improbable comeback after trailing by 10 in the final minutes, but Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday ripped the ball out of Booker’s hands and threw a spectacular alley-oop to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the final seconds to secure Milwaukee’s win.It was a play that looked a lot like several for the Suns offense: Hand the ball to Booker and hope he does something awesome. There were a lot of times that he did and he finished with 40 points. The numbers say that the Suns had a very good offensive performance in Game 5: They shot 55% from the field, 68% on 3-pointers and 91% on free throws.But Phoenix is at its best when its sharing the basketball on offense, whipping the ball around the perimeter in an effort to find the open man. Without many defensive stops, the offense was often stuck in halfcourt sets. Their 19 3-point attempts were far fewer than their usual 34 per game during the regular season.Booker said he could feel the Suns’ offense getting stagnant in the third.“We were trading basket for basket for I think five minutes straight,” Booker said. “But we’re at our best when we get stops and get out in transition. I always say we hang our hat on the defensive end and that’s where we have to be better.”The Suns have shown an ability to respond to less-than-ideal situations in the postseason. All-Star point guard Chris Paul injured his shoulder in the first round against the Lakers and wasn’t very effective the next several games.Paul also missed the first two games of the Western Conferece finals against the LA Clippers because he was placed in the league’s COVID-19 health and safefy protocol. The Suns still won both games.Now comes the biggest test yet. The Bucks’ big three of Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Khris Middleton are playing some of their best basketball of the season and the Suns have to find a way to beat them twice.First comes Game 6.“One at a time,” Booker said. “Our focus is Milwaukee right now. That is how have you to do these series, one game at a time and yeah, that’s that.”———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Booker brilliant, needs to get more help from stagnant Suns

Booker brilliant, needs to get more help from stagnant Suns

When Devin Booker took his usual seat on the bench at the beginning of the second quarter, the Phoenix Suns lost their stranglehold on Game 5 of the NBA FinalsBy DAVID BRANDT AP Sports WriterJuly 18, 2021, 5:16 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — When Devin Booker took his usual seat on the bench at the beginning of the second quarter, the Phoenix Suns lost their stranglehold on Game 5 of the NBA Finals.Booker had scored 11 points and the Suns built a 16-point lead on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Footprint Center was in a frenzy and Phoenix couldn’t miss a shot.Then things changed. Over the next 5 minutes and 46 seconds, the Bucks began their comeback.By the time Booker returned with 6:14 left in the second, the Suns’ lead had nearly disappeared. The Bucks had taken all the momentum and never let it go on the way to a 123-119 win to take a 3-2 series lead as the scene shifts back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Tuesday night.“We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start and we let it go,” Booker said. “They stayed resilient and they kept playing through. So, tough loss for us.”Booker was impressive for the second straight game, scoring 40 points on 17 of 33 shooting after his 42-point performance in a Game 4 loss.But the rest of the Suns were either inconsistent or non-existent.Phoenix looked stagnant on offense, relying on Booker to generate offense by himself. That was readily apparent on a crucial possession in the final minute when Booker drove to the basket, the Bucks’ defense collapsed, and Milwaukee point guard Jrue Holiday ripped the ball away for a steal to seal the win.“We’ve got to move it around,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We know what Book can do with the ball, but the one thing we talked about was getting to the paint, finding guys on the back side. We feel like that’s a formula. There were some times tonight where it just stuck a little bit.”Holiday outplayed Phoenix’s Chris Paul for a third straight game. Deandre Ayton scored 20 points but wasn’t his usual rim-protecting self on defense. Jae Crowder was quiet after a few early 3-pointers and a dunk. Mikal Bridges had a few good moments but the Suns needed more.Booker’s teammates were able to step up during a fourth quarter push, but it proved to be too late.The Suns have always depended on Booker’s production, particularly when it comes to scoring. Even when Paul — an 11-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer — was added to the roster during the offseason, it was the 24-year-old Booker who remained the cornerstone, having grown up over six years while the franchise built into a championship contender.The difference this season was that Booker usually had plenty of help.The Suns employed a high-octane offense that put on a premium on quick passes and sharing the ball. Coach Monty Williams likes to call it a 0.5 second offense because he wanted a pass, shot or drive within a half second.The offense was clicking early in the finals and the Suns took a 2-0 series lead. It was the Bucks who were struggling to find enough help for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. But Milwaukee has flipped the script, winning the last three games — partly because Booker can’t do it all by himself.Phoenix is out of mulligans. If the Suns don’t want to watch the Bucks celebrate in Milwaukee, they need to figure it out by the time the NBA Finals return to Wisconsin.“We’re ready, man, we’re ready for next game,” Bridges said. “If you sulk about it, the blink of an eye the season is going to be over. So, we’ll learn from it, coach is going to show clips and what we have to do better, but we know what we have to do. … We lose it’s over.”———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Chris Paul catches turnover bug at bad time for the Suns

Chris Paul catches turnover bug at bad time for the Suns

Chris Paul has caught the turnover bug at a very inopportune time for the Phoenix SunsBy DAVID BRANDT AP Sports WriterJuly 15, 2021, 6:52 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe ball was in Chris Paul’s hands with 35 seconds left and his team needed a bucket to tie or take the lead in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.The Phoenix Suns — and the 11-time All-Star — wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.The point guard did one crossover dribble to shake Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday. Then he immediately did another to try and lose Giannis Antetokounmpo.What happened next was not what the Suns or Paul expected. He just … fell down. The ball bounced away and so did Phoenix’s chances of taking a commanding lead in the series.Holiday scooped up the free possession and the Bucks converted a 3-on-1 fastbreak when Khris Middleton scored a layup. Just like that, Milwaukee had taken control of a come-from-behind 109-103 victory on Wednesday night that evened these finals at 2-2.“The turnovers,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “Just crushed us.”Game 5 is on Saturday in Phoenix.The 36-year-old Paul — who has waited 16 seasons to play in the NBA Finals — didn’t shy away from taking the blame.“It was me, I had five of them,” Paul said of the turnovers. “It was bad decision making. At the time, we’re down two. I try to crossover right there, slip, turn it over. There were some bad passes in the first half. They got a significant amount of more shots than us, so for me, I’ve got to take care of the ball.”He wasn’t the only one coughing up the basketball as the Suns finished with 17 turnovers. But there’s little doubt the point guard’s five turnovers on Wednesday night, including one in the game’s most crucial moment, were some of the team’s most unexpected.They were part of the reason the Suns blew a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead and wasted an impressive performance by Booker, who scored 42 points and shot 17 of 28 from the field.Paul finished with a series-low 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting and seven assists on Wednesday, but the real problem was the giveaways. The miscues have been part of a troubling trend: Paul’s had 15 turnovers over his past three games and that’s about twice as bad as his career rate of 2.4 turnovers per game.Even so, his coach isn’t concerned and said there is nothing physically wrong with Paul.“He’s fine,” Williams said. “Great players have games like that.”Paul has given his coach reason to believe in him, overcoming considerable adversity in these playoffs. A shoulder injury limited Paul in the first round against the Lakers. He missed the first two games of the Western Conference finals against the Clippers in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol.Each time, he came back to push the Suns forward. He was brilliant in a four-game sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the second round. He had 41 points against the Clippers in Game 6 to propel the Suns to their first NBA Finals since 1993.Now he’s got to bounce back against the Bucks.“We know what we’ve got to do,” Paul said, seemingly talking about himself more than the rest of the Suns. “Be better.”———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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