MILWAUKEE -- Losing in the NBA Finals left the Phoenix Suns struggling to deal with a pain like they had never felt, having come close to a dream only to fall short.
"I haven't felt a hurt like this in my life," Suns guard Devin Booker said. "This isn't something you want to feel."
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points to power the Milwaukee Bucks to a 105-98 victory over the Suns on Tuesday to win the best-of-seven championship series four games to two.
The Suns, who won the first two games at home, dropped four in a row for the first time all season at the worst time all season.
"It's hard to get here and I wanted it so bad," Suns coach Monty Williams said before choking up, his words emerging as a slow whisper. "It's hard to process right now. It's hard. That's all.
"I've never dealt with this kind of hurt as a head coach. There's just a pain that goes with your season being over, but I've never dealt with this. I know this is going to hurt for a while."
Suns guard Chris Paul was in the NBA Finals for the first time in his 16-year career at age 36 and still hungers for his first NBA title.
"You're just trying to figure out what you could have did more. It's tough," Paul said. "Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while."
Describing the Suns locker room as "just lost," Paul said he intends to channel the pain into harder work for next season and a chance to return to the finals after being somewhat of a shock in this year's playoffs.
"For me it just means back to work. Nothing more, nothing less," Paul said. "Ain't no moral victories or whatnot. We sort of saw what it takes to get there and hopefully we see what it takes to get past that."
- 'I ain't retiring' -
Any notion Paul will quit on his championship dream after coming so close was tossed aside.
"It's the same mentality. I ain't retiring," Paul said. "That's out. So, back to work."
It's much the same for Booker.
"To fall short is tough on all of us. You don't want this. This is what you go into the summer with and you take it and use it as fuel," Booker said.
"It was a great experience for us. We set a foundation and a base for our team. We're going to take this hurt and bring it into the summer and continue to get better.
"Next season, on a Tuesday night playing against Cleveland, if we don't have it, we will be quickly reminded about the details and if you don't want to give it your all what can happen -- this feeling we're feeling right now can happen."
Bahamas big man Deandre Ayton tried to see the defeat as a start and not an ending.
"This is just the beginning. Now we know what we need to do," Ayton said. "We feel it. It leaves a little bad taste in your mouth.
"I tip my hat off to Milwaukee. They wanted to die on that court. That's what it takes. Everybody got to give it their all when it comes to this, especially when it's last game."
Williams said that will make the job harder.
"Now we know what it takes to get here. It's going to be that much harder to get past this point," he said. "You never know if you're ever going to get back here."
© Agence France-Presse