EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Chris Paul puts on masterful show in 4th quarter of Suns win over Mavs

Jan 30, 2021, 11:17 PM | Updated: 11:56 pm

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) shoots as Dallas Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein (33) defend...

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) shoots as Dallas Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein (33) defends during the first half during an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/ Richard W. Rodriguez)

(AP Photo/ Richard W. Rodriguez)

The Point God has officially arrived in the Valley.

Chris Paul was getting acclimated to a new system with new teammates as the new leader of his new organization through the first 15 games of the season. A few growing pains should have been expected, but it looks like those are a thing of the past and Suns fans can start expecting him to win games like he did on Saturday.

The 35-year-old 10-time All-Star was a mastermind in the fourth quarter of a 111-105 Suns win, racking up 16 of his 29 points and five of his 12 assists in the closing 12 minutes.

In a 34-point fourth for the Suns, Paul either assisted or scored on 30 of them, continuing to step up while Devin Booker (left hamstring strain) gets healthy.

“I think the game is a bit slower for him down the stretch,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said of Paul. “I don’t know what that is. A gene or he just has it.”

Phoenix trailed by five after a hard-fought three quarters, with an effort from the second unit keeping the team in it that both Williams and Paul made sure to point out after the game.

“We won this game because of that second unit in the third quarter,” Paul said. “Langston Galloway and that crew, they really did that for us.”

Dallas led by 15 midway through the third, and Paul shortly after got what would be his last rest of the game. Despite the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic scoring 18 of his 29 points in that quarter, the Suns bench clawed its way back to have it within striking distance for the starters.

Everyone in the second unit contributed. Galloway scored 12 points, Frank Kaminsky and Abdel Nader each added seven and E’Twaun Moore provided three more. Mikal Bridges spent some time with that group in that third quarter and had a few key buckets to get the Suns out of “the mud,” as Williams will refer to it as.

From there, Paul played the entire fourth quarter, hitting 35 minutes on the night, while Deandre Ayton was out there for over 12 straight minutes to reach 39.

“I feel so honored just to be in those crunch-time minutes, especially I was happy that I wasn’t in no foul trouble … Big ups to coach for trusting me and believing me,” Ayton said of getting the extended run.”

That’s where the Point God did his thing. With the score 93-90 Dallas and under five minutes left, the Suns scored on seven of their next eight possessions.

Paul’s two-man game with Ayton is getting to the point where defenses are more often than not in an impossible position.

The chemistry is still a work in progress but there are more glimpses of the lob connection between the two.

Ayton offered a “little inside” that he’s been watching Paul’s old “Lob City” games with the Los Angeles Clippers, eyeing how DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin took certain angles for Paul to hit around the basket.

That film study is paying off. The last two crucial buckets on that aforementioned run were a lob to Ayton and then that pick-and-roll dynamic setting up a Jae Crowder three-ball to ice it.

“We getting there,” Paul said of the feel with Ayton. “We getting there. It’s getting fun, man.”

The Suns (10-8) outscored the Mavericks (8-12) 34-23 in the fourth quarter to seal the game when it mattered. In a nice reversal of fortune, the Suns shot 5-of-6 from three-point range after losing a few games because of a ghastly drop-off in shooting percentages for the fourth quarter.

That 23 points needs an extra mention as a shoutout to the Suns’ defense, which held Dallas’ high-scoring quarter of the game to 28 and was the main reason they were in a position to win the game.

Ayton wasn’t all that aggressive with his touches around the rim and fumbled a handful of passes early on, but he overcame that by continuously running the floor, protecting the rim and rebounding.

That all peaked during a fourth quarter he was excellent in.

Ayton bounced back after a painful-looking knock on the shoulder he took in the first quarter that briefly took him out of the game.

“That was a tough one,” Ayton admitted, before quickly downplaying it only a way that he can. “But I’m ‘Dominayton.’ I don’t feel that. I had to get back in there. Like back in the day, throw on some IcyHot, I’m good. Just a little scratch.”

He finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, once again showcasing the different ways he can have a heavy impact on the game even when some parts of it aren’t coming together.

Bridges ended up with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

There was a sense early in the third quarter that the Suns would need some heroics from Paul to get a victory. The team is fortunate enough to have a player of his caliber that can do that for them, and to have talents like Ayton that can light a spark at the perfect time.

Saturday should have made it two out of three games Paul achieved this high-level feat after his spectacular 32-point effort in Wednesday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And don’t get it twisted, either. This is not just a little spurt of phenomenal play to keep the Suns afloat while Booker recovers. This is the greatness of Paul that the NBA has seen for well over a decade.

Suns fans better get ready to see a whole lot more of it.

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