No Devin Booker, no problem for the Phoenix Suns in a pivotal Game 3 on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans. Even without their 25-year-old superstar shooting guard, Phoenix handled their business in the Bayou, winning 114-111 behind an absolutely incredible clutch performance from Chris Paul.
The Pelicans have done a great job limiting Paul’s effectiveness after a fourth-quarter scoring explosion in Game 1. However, CP3 found his antidote because the future Hall-of-Fame point guard stacked stellar sequences on top of each other when it mattered most.
Paul finished with 28 points and 14 assists, an effort punctuated by a full-on takeover when he re-entered the game with just over 10 minutes to go. Upon Paul’s reentry into that final quarter, he scored or assisted on 23 of the Suns’ 33 total points. During one pivotal 5-minute stretch, Paul was responsible for 15 consecutive points against New Orleans’ aggressive defense. Here's what that run looked like:
9:57 remaining: Paul makes free throw
9:22 remaining: Paul makes 10-foot jumper
7:34 remaining: Paul makes 14-foot jumper
6:49 remaining: Mikal Bridges makes 16-foot jumper (Paul assist)
6:01 remaining: Paul makes 16-foot jumper
5:26 remaining: Paul makes 19-foot jumper
4:52 remaining: Paul makes 13-foot jumper
4:16 remaining: Paul makes 19-foot jumper
This jaw-dropping spurt from Paul was halted by a timeout on the floor, at which time Phoenix led 98-95 with 3:28 left. Without Paul’s brilliance in the most pressure-packed situations, the Suns might be staring down the barrel of a 2-1 series deficit without Booker presumably for the remainder of their first-round series.
Chris Paul was INCREDIBLE in Game 3, he spent the first 3 quarters setting up his teammates before DOMINATING the fourth quarter with 19 points to push the @Suns to the 2-1 series lead! @CP3: 28 PTS, 4 REB, 14 AST pic.twitter.com/qWfoqH7Q7S— NBA (@NBA) April 23, 2022
Simply put, Paul wasn’t going to be denied in the Bayou. Paul’s teammates still are taken aback at points by these incredible moments of greatness. JaVale McGee, a fellow veteran on the Suns’ roster, noticed how much easier Paul makes it for everyone else on the court alongside him. Whatever coverage defenses are throwing at the Suns, Paul’s innate basketball IQ can help break any containment.
“I’m impressed every time I see it,” McGee said postgame of Paul’s fourth-quarter heroics. “He does the same thing. He’ll facilitate everybody else and then that fourth quarter comes. If we need him, he steps up and starts hitting those middies over and over. It’s just amazing the way he does it.”