The Phoenix Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks 129-109 Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven-playoff series. The Suns led 89-83 to start the fourth when Chris Paul, aka “The Point God,” took over and dominated the fourth. He scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting with two assists, attacking the ‘ Luka Doncic in one-on-one situations almost exclusively.
CP3 is COOKING ♨️ pic.twitter.com/hvTxXHmz5p
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 5, 2022
It was a master class by one of the great players in the history of the game. Paul is an old-school point guard, in that he prefers to manage the game, set up his teammates and pick and choose his spots to be aggressive.
But that’s generally through the first three quarters.
Paul might be the only player in the league who can think the game as well as or better than LeBron James. His brain is like a supercomputer with billions of reference points that he’s gathered over his 16 seasons and counting. There’s almost no problem on the court he can’t solve.
Wednesday night’s fourth quarter was an apex predator seeking his prey and feasting. Knowing the load that Doncic carried all game and his limitations on defense, Paul repeatedly called for Doncic to get switched onto him. He scored on him in every isolation situation. It didn’t matter who the Mavs tried to hide Doncic on.
When the Mavs realized they couldn’t leave Luka in isolation and doubled Paul on the pick and roll, the future Hall of Famer knew it was coming and had his teammates in position to catch an early pass and play four-on-three heading toward the rim.
The Suns outscored the Mavs 40-26 in the fourth, and that was with Paul sitting for the last six minutes.
“Like I always say,” Paul said about his masterful performance. “Just playing the game.”
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith saw it differently and articulated what he saw more bluntly. Smith said Paul and the Suns were “picking on Luka Doncic.”
Paul turns 37 on Friday.He won’t have too many more chances at winning a title. You can sense that he understands that and is playing with that type of urgency.
The Suns advanced to the NBA Finals last year and took a 2-0 series lead on the Milwaukee Bucks before losing four straight. The Bucks’ size was the one thing Paul couldn’t solve.
This season he and the Suns attacked the regular season with a chip on their shoulder, almost as though they heard everyone saying last season’s run was a fluke. If certain teams were healthy they wouldn’t have made it as far.
They were 51-21 last season, the second-best record in the league, and finished third in aNET rating. They backed it up this season by finishing a league best 64-18, nine games ahead of the next-best team, and finishing second in aNET rating after holding the top rating almost the entire season. They rested down the stretch.
Their first-round series against the young super-athletic and big New Orleans Pelicans was just what they needed to wake them up for the playoffs. Having been the best team all season, they hadn’t been seriously tested in over a month.
Having morphed back into the elite-two way, precision execution machine means trouble for the Mavs and a titanic Western Conference showdown against either the Golden State Warriors or Memphis Grizzlies.
For Paul, it’s one step closer to that elusive NBA championship.