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DENVER, CO – JUNE 13: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns is congratulated after a fourth-quarter free throw against the Denver Nuggets in Game Four of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 13, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo : Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Suns booked their first Western Conference finals appearance in 11 years after beating the Denver Nuggets, 125-118, in Game 4 of their semis showdown Sunday night.
The shorthanded Nuggets had no answer for the Suns, who extended their postseason winning streak to seven games following the four-game sweep.
Chris Paul moves ever closer to first NBA Finals appearance
There’s just no stopping the Point God right now. Chris Paul led the way for the Suns in the series clincher, scoring 37 points on a masterful 14-of-19 shooting from the field as he single-handedly thwarted Denver’s comeback bid in the final quarter.
It was Paul’s best scoring performance in three years, not bad for a 36-year-old whose health was questioned following a right shoulder injury in the series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He’s just the third player in NBA history aged 36 or older to record a 37-point performance in the playoffs, joining Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone in the very short list.
Paul has put those injury concerns to bed, however, with his strong scoring performances against the Nuggets. His midrange game was simply unstoppable in this series, with Paul shooting 22-of-34 from this area in the semifinals against Denver.
He was hard to stop, particularly in the payoff period, recording 43 points, ten assists, and zero turnovers in the fourth quarter of this series. Paul shot 16-of-19 from the field during this juncture, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
It’s not just Paul who stepped up for Phoenix in Game 4. Devin Booker also contributed in a big way for the Suns, scoring 34 points on 11 made field goals and ten free throws.
Paul and Booker became the first pair of Suns teammates to each score at least 30 points in a playoff game since Steve Nash and Shawn Marion accomplished the feat back in 2005. They were instrumental in dissecting the Nuggets the entire series, with Phoenix winning by an average of 15.7 points over the four-game stretch.
Nuggets fall short once again
It was a disappointing end to the season for the Denver Nuggets, who still managed to reach this stage of the playoffs despite the loss of key playmaker Jamal Murray to an ACL injury. They survived and flourished thanks to the outstanding play of newly-proclaimed MVP Nikola Jokic, finishing third in a tough Western Conference before eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers in a grueling six-game series.
However, their dream run came to a crashing halt against the Suns as their limitations were finally exposed. It didn’t help matters that star forwards Aaron Gordon, and Michael Porter Jr. struggled offensively the entire series.
Facing elimination in Game 4, those frustrations boiled over in a highly physical contest as Jokic was ejected for a hard foul on Cam Payne in the third quarter.
He was charged with a flagrant foul penalty two, a highly contentious decision given that Jokic, the MVP, and the Nuggets were fighting for their playoff lives.
Jokic left the game having recorded 22 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in 28 minutes of action. The Serbian star is only the fifth MVP to be swept in a playoff series, joining Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wes Unseld in that esteemed list.
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