The top-seeded Phoenix Suns were braced for another fourth-quarter playoff fight on Wednesday night.
Chris Paul turned it into an early knockout.
The 12-time All-Star scored 28 points, including 14 in another spectacular final period, to lead the Suns over the Dallas Mavericks 129-109 for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Paul, who turns 37 on Friday, almost single-handedly turned a tight game into a comfortable victory — the Suns’ 11th win in a row against the Mavericks counting regular-season games.
“You’ve just got to lean on the work,” Paul said. “It all goes back to the work. You can’t cheat the game. You’ve got to do the strength and conditioning, you’ve got to lift, you’ve got to get your rest, you got to get your shots up.
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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)
“When you do that, you live with the results.”
Suns guard Devin Booker said he’s run out of ways to describe Paul’s fourth-quarter heroics.
“You guys tell me, you’re watching the same thing,” Booker said. “It impresses us every time we see it, but it doesn’t surprise us. It’s just the will to win.”
The Mavs led 60-58 at halftime but the Suns quickly recaptured the lead after Booker hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third. The Suns took an 89-83 advantage going into the final quarter and it looked like a tough fight was coming.
But that’s about the time Paul decided the game was his to control, hitting six shots in a row on everything from 3-pointers to mid-range jumpers to layups. The feisty Mavericks finally didn’t have an answer. Booker hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the fourth to give the Suns a 114-95 lead.
Booker led the Suns with 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range. The Suns shot 64.5% overall — which was a franchise record in the playoffs — and made 52% of their 3-pointers. They shot 84% from the field (16 of 19) in the fourth quarter.
“We have good players,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I’d love to sit here and tell you I’m moving the chess pieces around, but we have good players who can knock down shots.”
Game 3 is on Friday in Dallas.
The Mavericks will go home in a 2-0 hole, desperately needing contributions from someone other than Luka Doncic, who scored 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting two nights after a 45-point performance in Game 1.
“He had a great game, but no one else showed,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “We’ve got to get other guys shooting the ball better. We can’t win with just him out there scoring 30 a night. Not this time of the year and playing the best team in the league.”
Reggie Bullock added 16 points for the Mavs.
“The mood is fine,” Doncic said. “I think a lot of players, it’s the first time in this situation. They’ve got to win four, so it’s not over yet. We are going to go back home, our crowd is amazing.”
The Suns jumped out to a 9-0 lead for a second straight game, but the Mavericks had a better response than in Game 1.
Dallas slowly fought back and Spencer Dinwiddie hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 38. Davis Bertans followed with a 3-pointer with 7:56 left in the second quarter to give the Mavs a 41-38 advantage and their first lead of the series.
The Mavs took a two-point lead after a foul-filled first half. Doncic scored 24 before the break on 9-of-14 shooting, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Jae Crowder led the Suns with 15.
Mavericks: Bertans gave the Mavs good minutes in the first half, scoring nine points and going 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. … Doncic briefly turned and stared down a Suns heckler late in the third quarter when he was walking off the playing floor into the tunnel. Doncic was quickly ushered away from the fan by Dallas team personnel.
Suns: Shot 64.7% from the field in the first quarter. … Crowder picked up a technical foul in the second quarter. Ayton was called for a flagrant 1 foul after being called for an offensive foul, catching Dwight Powell in the face with his elbow. … Phoenix hosted a sellout crowd for a 31st straight game.