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Paul's play leads to Suns blowout

by The Associated Press | June 10, 2021 at 2:04 a.m.
Chris Paul (left) of the Phoenix Suns dribbles against Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo during the Suns’ victory Wednesday night. Paul had 17 points, 15 assists and no turnovers as Phoenix took a 2-0 series lead. (AP/Matt York)

PHOENIX -- Chris Paul is a 36-year-old man who can still put together an NBA point guard's version of a virtuoso performance: Fifteen assists, no turnovers and it led to another blowout playoff victory for his rolling Phoenix Suns.

"I feel good," Paul said. "I feel really good."

Apparently so.

The ageless Paul added 17 points, Devin Booker had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Phoenix routed the Denver Nuggets 123-98 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

Deandre Ayton had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Mikal Bridges added 16 points for the balanced Suns in their fifth consecutive victory.

Paul was particularly impressive and it appears his ailing right shoulder -- which greatly limited his play against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round -- isn't much of a problem anymore. The 11-time All-Star had 21 points and 11 assists in Game 1.

Nikola Jokic had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Denver, a day after getting the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. But the Nuggets couldn't find anyone else to score consistently, leaving them reeling going back to Denver for Game 3 on Friday night.

"This was an embarrassing performance for myself all the way to the last player," Denver Coach Michael Malone said. "We are walking out of here with our heads held down and rightfully so. There was a reason that their crowd was yelling "Suns in four!" and they are calling for a sweep because if we play like this in Denver, this is going to be a really quick series."

The Suns had a 10-point halftime lead Wednesday and Jae Crowder added a pair of three-pointers early in the third to make it 60-43. Phoenix took an 86-67 advantage into the fourth. The Suns led by 31 in the final quarter as they relentlessly pushed the ball even as the lead built.

"It's the NBA -- crazy things can happen no matter how big of a lead you have," Suns forward Torrey Craig said.

Crowder had another good night as the Suns' long-range shooter and enforcer. He and Denver's Aaron Gordon were each called for a technical foul after they exchanged words and shoves midway through the third. On the next possession, Crowder coaxed Gordon into committing an offensive foul, much to the delight of the 16,529 at Phoenix Suns Arena.

"It was one of our better defensive halves of the year against a good offensive team," Suns Coach Monty Williams said. "We were relentless with our effort, our communication and coverages."

Crowder said he isn't seeking to be the team's enforcer but the moments keep finding him. He joked that he's already given too much money to the NBA in the form of fines during this postseason.

"I got to be smart and protect my money a little," he added grinning.

Paul pushed the sellout crowd into a frenzy in the fourth, throwing his 15th assist to Craig after criss-crossing around helpless Denver forward Paul Millsap. Paul then hit a pair of three-pointers and the celebration was on in the desert with the Suns rolling in their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons.

Phoenix took a 52-42 halftime lead after a sloppy first half where both teams struggled to generate offense. Denver was shaky with its long range shooting, making just 1 of 13 three-pointers in the first quarter.

Booker had 13 points before the break. Jokic countered with 15 points.

At a glance

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

Phoenix 123, Denver 98

Phoenix leads series 2-0.

TODAY’S GAMES All times Central

Brooklyn at Milwaukee, 6:30 p.m.

Brooklyn leads series 2-0.

LA Clippers at Utah, 9 p.m.

Utah leads series 1-0.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots as Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) defends during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots as Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) defends during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots as Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric defends during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots as Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric defends during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, high fives forward Dario Saric after a three pointer against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, high fives forward Dario Saric after a three pointer against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) celebrates during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) celebrates during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker tries to save a loose ball as he collides with Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker tries to save a loose ball as he collides with Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Officials separate Phoenix Suns players and Denver Nuggets players during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Officials separate Phoenix Suns players and Denver Nuggets players during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Former olympic swimmer Michael Phelps watches the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets 118during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Former olympic swimmer Michael Phelps watches the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets 118during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) passes around Denver Nuggets forward JaMychal Green (0) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) passes around Denver Nuggets forward JaMychal Green (0) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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