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PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 07: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns drives the ball past Facundo Campazzo #7 of the Denver Nuggets during the second half in Game One of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 07, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Nuggets 122-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo : Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Suns opened their Western Conference semifinal series with a bang as they secured a 122-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 Monday night. Veteran playmaker Chris Paul spearheaded a furious second half uprising by the Suns who now hold a 1-0 series lead.
For majority of the contest, the Suns looked lethargic, appearing as if they were still feeling the after-effects of their bruising encounter with the Los Angeles Lakers in the previous round. Chris Paul, who suffered a shoulder injury in that series against the now-deposed champions, looked out of sorts, hitting just two of his eight shot attempts through the first three quarters.
Chris Paul Takes Control
With his team needing a spark in the final period, Paul delivered the goods, scoring 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, shooting a perfect 6-of-6 from the field during that juncture to help the Suns grab the series opener. He also dished out 11 assists and grabbed six boards in 35 minutes of action.
The Point God scored or assisted on 20 of the Suns’ final 34 points, leading Phoenix to an unexpected blowout in the end. It is Paul’s ninth career playoff game with 20 points, 10 assists and one or fewer turnovers, passing Laker star LeBron James for the most in the league with that particular stat line since turnovers were first tracked and recorded in 1977-78.
Make no mistake, though, this Phoenix Suns team isn’t all about Chris Paul or main scorer Devin Booker for that matter. The Suns showed their depth in this contest with all five starters scoring in double-figures, each finishing with at least 14 points.
Mikal Bridges took center stage in the comeback win, scoring 11 of his playoff career-high 23 points during a blistering 28-9 run in the third quarter that turned a 10-point deficit into a nine-point advantage for the Suns heading into the final quarter.
Related Article: 2021 NBA Playoffs: Nets Destroy Bucks in Game 2 To Take 2-0 Lead
Nikola Jokic Needs to Step Up
It’s just one game though and the Nuggets will take heart in the fact that they were in control of the contest in the early stages of the second half. One guy who needs to step up for Denver in Game 2 is Nikola Jokic.
After making five of his first six field goal attempts, Jokic struggled the rest of the way, eventually finishing with just 22 points on 10 of 23 shooting from the field. Unlike the Suns, depth has been a problem for Denver this postseason with Jamal Murray sidelined after suffering an ACL injury.
All eyes will be on star forward Michael Porter Jr. in Game 2 after he played limited minutes in the second half of Game 1 because of a back issue. Coach Michael Malone expects Porter Jr., who scored just 15 points in the Game 1 loss to suit up next game, telling reporters that he “wanted to keep Porter fresh for what he hopes will be a long series.” Porter was sensational in their series-clinching win against the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 22 of his 26 points in the opening quarter of that 126-115 Game 6 victory.
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