Paul changed his coach’s mind during a touching pre-game conversation on Sunday.
“He said, ‘Coach, let me start, and if you don’t think I look like I normally do, then take me out and we’ll have to go in a different direction,” Williams said. “It’s one of those situations where I had to trust the player. “
By the time Paul finished orchestrating their superb second half, the Suns were headed in only one direction: getting back to Phoenix with a 2-2 series and dramatically increased confidence in these newcomers’ ability to play. playoffs to eliminate the defending champions.
Paul had 18 points and nine assists, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder added 17 points apiece and the Suns tied the first-round series with a 100-92 victory.
Deandre Ayton had 14 points and 17 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns, who took advantage of Anthony Davis‘absence of the second half with a groin injury to regain home advantage in the series after two consecutive losses.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Paul was largely a non-factor in Game 3 of his first playoffs with his new team, clearly struggling to take shots with his ailing right arm. After two days in which he didn’t touch a basketball, Paul looked better in Sunday’s pre-game practice – then looked a lot sharper in the game, contributing 12 points and all of his assists in the second half of the Suns’ first road playoff win in over 11 years.
“Everything clicks a bit better with 3 on the court and 3 being himself,” Crowder said. “I have the impression that we are feeding on it. It is a big part of the puzzle. It’s a bit difficult when he’s not doing what he normally does. It’s really monumental that he’s there for our team.
Paul was grateful that Williams was receptive to his fervent desire to play. He also assured his teammates that he would only persevere if he could help, telling Crowder and others, “I don’t know how long this will last, but if you all feel like I am here looking like a trash can, just tell me and I’ll be out.
“I haven’t touched a basketball or anything since the last game,” added Paul. “We haven’t had a lot of guys missing a lot of games this season, so we’re used to playing a certain way. I was just happy that I could be there and help.
The Lakers had exactly this problem: Without Davis, the champions can’t play the way they want – and not even James Lebron could save them this time.
Davis scored six points on a 2-on-9 shot in the first half, but did not come back after half-time. The big superstar man scored 34 points in each of the Lakers’ two wins in the series, but hypertensioned his leg in Game 3 and then appeared to worsen his accumulated injuries in the second quarter of Game 4, falling awkwardly and grabbing his leg. after a layup attempt defended by Crowder.
“I thought he was working a bit,” even before the groin injury, said Lakers coach Frank Vogel of Davis, who missed 30 regular season games. “He said his knee was sore, but there was no way he wasn’t going to play. I thought he had gone to great lengths, trying to compete with the pain.
James had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who fell too far behind in the third quarter as Davis was evaluated in the locker room. Ahead of their last-minute push, Los Angeles struggled in the absence of starters Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pape, who injured his knee in Game 3.
Davis left Staples Center before the game was over for medical treatment. James will carry even more responsibility if Davis misses a game, but he’s ready.
“For me, that puts our team in a position to be successful,” said James. “These shoulders were built for a reason, and if it takes a little more to put in a little more, I’m up to the challenge. “
Phoenix drove a 32-15 run starting shortly before halftime and encompassing all of third, in which he held the Lakers 15 points on a 3-for-16 shot with Davis absent.
The Suns were leading by 18 with less than nine minutes to go, but James led a 19-8 run and pulled it down to 95-88 with 2:40 to go. Phoenix held on when Dennis Schröder missed an easy layup before Crowder hit an unchallenged 3-point off the Suns bench with 1:23 to go.
Suns: Ponts Mikal and Crowder hit three 3 points each to lead the team. … Crowder annoyed James in the fourth quarter when he brutally grabbed the superstar’s arms with both hands to prevent an attempted layup. “We’re not looking to have anyone,” Crowder said. “We’re just trying to play with a physical mindset and impose our will more than them. “
Lakers : Marc Gasol scored 12 points, a series high, scoring three 3 points. … Caldwell-Pope’s unavailability was a game-time decision after a pre-game training session. … Los Angeles still hasn’t won a back-to-back playoff game since 2012.
Wesley Matthews started in place of Caldwell-Pope, whose absence spurred the Lakers’ 3-point game early: After hitting just nine 3-pointers combined in the opening halves of the first three games, Los Angeles in scored nine in the first half of Game 4 alone with two apiece from Matthews and Ben McLemore, who got playing time mainly due to the absence of Caldwell-Pope.
The Lakers, however, only touched four other 3 points in the second half. Matthews and McLemore didn’t score again after their early breakup.
The Suns’ last road playoff victory was in San Antonio on May 9, 2010, when Steve Nash and Love’e Stoudemire completed a four-game Spurs sweep in the second round before losing to future repeat Lakers champions in the Western Conference final.
“We have derailed this year, but at the same time, we have lived it (before)”, declared Kyle Kuzma, who scored 11 points for LA. “We’re tailor-made for a basketball guy for when AD is out there. When he wasn’t there we had to figure out on the fly how we were going to perform offensively.
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