DAN BICKLEY

Chris Paul’s cutthroat closing skills have Suns 10 wins away from NBA title

May 4, 2022, 10:48 PM | Updated: May 5, 2022, 8:44 am

PHOENIX — The NBA championship requires 16 playoff victories. Some will be masterpieces worthy of wall space in the Louvre. Some will belong in the paper shredder.

Some games you win and never speak of again. Like Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.

When the horn sounded and the whistles finally stopped blowing, the Suns had posted a 129-109 blowout victory. They elevated over their frustrations, the Mavericks and a maddening Ref Show/Foul-a-palooza. They own a commanding series lead, a four-game winning streak and are on the runway to a drama-free series victory.

And once again, you can thank their fearless leader.

Somewhere near the end of the third quarter, you could tell that Chris Paul had enough. He grabbed the reins from Luka Doncic. He started making shots. He started dishing assists. He unleashed his cutthroat closing skills, guiding the Suns on a 23-9 run that turned a tricky game into a foregone conclusion.

“Chris, the way he just continues to pick that spot when it’s time to take over, is really impressive,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said.

It had been a strange start to the series for the Point God. He was unhappy with his playing time in Game 1, barking at Williams when he was pulled from the game for load management purposes. He had only six assists in the first six quarters of the series, hounded by Dallas defenders up and down the court.

But Paul found his groove and his moment. And just like he did three times against the Pelicans, Paul took out his carving knife and extracted the heart of his opponent.

“It impresses us every time we see it, but it doesn’t surprise us,” Suns star Devin Booker said. “It’s just the will to win.”

The pull-away heroics from Paul and his teammates finally ignited the crowd at Footprint Center, harkening back to last year’s breakout performance from leather-lunged Suns fans. It was an audience somewhat muted for most of a postseason in progress.

To that end, the Suns actually posted a quote on their Jumbotron from Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock, who was not impressed with Phoenix fans in Game 1. It was a blatant attempt to give their Game 2 audience some additional motivation, the fuel and vitriol that comes so naturally when the opposing team is from Los Angeles.

The Suns did their part early. They staged another first quarter mugging, racing to the same 9-0 lead they posted in Game 1. And then the game went off the rails, ending up in a mud pit.

There were 30 personal fouls in the first half. Nine of them were offensive fouls. The Mavericks found their footing and their first lead of the series in strange fashion, with Doncic watching for nearly six minutes. It felt like an upset special was brewing, just like Game 2 against the Pelicans.

But Paul had other ideas. His scoring flurry seemed to crack the code and unlock the Suns’ offense. Devin Booker poured in 30 points. The scorching finish helped the Suns shoot 64.5 percent from the floor — a single postseason game franchise record — including 13-of-25 from beyond the three-point line.

“I don’t know if our guys expect it, but they’re grateful for it,” Williams said of Paul’s closing act. “He’s just a fantastic basketball player.”

After the game, Paul said closing out games was “fun, especially on the road.”  He said there are no secrets other than hard work, a team collectively adhering to the philosophy that you cannot cheat the game of basketball. Meanwhile, Jae Crowder admitted the Suns are in “good shape” after their sixth victory over the postseason.

Ten more gets them a trophy and a parade.

“I think everybody is on this Revenge Tour with us,” Booker said. “And it’s fun to be a part of it.”

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Penguin Air
A fan waits for autographs before Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns to begin, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Fans wait for Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns to begin, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) knocks the ball away from Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) works the ball around Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell, left, and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, prepares for Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker lies on the court after he was fouled during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) works the ball past Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) looks to pass against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams hands off the ball during a break in the action during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives around Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) and Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scramble for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) and Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scramble for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a play during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes the ball down court past Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives around Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket past Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) and Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock, right, react after Paul was called for a foul during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives past Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, and Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) is blocked by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) as he drives to the basket during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) is blocked by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Referee Ben Taylor (46) separates Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, and Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, second from right, during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, and Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) scramble for a loose ball during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) scores over Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, left, and forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) is fouled by Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee, right, as he drives to the basket during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) passes around Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) is pressured by Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) and Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell, left, during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, center, pass the ball to teammate JaVale McGee (00) as he drives past Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd directs his players during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock, right, reaches out to teammates Dwight Powell, front, and Luka Doncic, center, and Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) looks on during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd reacts to a play during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks players react during the final moments of their loss to Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, right, celebrate a play against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game One of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 121-114. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot against Maxi Kleber #42 and Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 04, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 129-109. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Fans wait for Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns to begin, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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