The top seeded Phoenix Suns were able to fend off a second half rally to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 1 of their opening round Western Conference playoff series thanks to their superstar guard Chris Paul.
Paul took over during the fourth quarter, defeating a Pelicans’ strategy to dare him to shoot, scoring 17 points during a five-minute stretch to snuff out the New Orleans comeback attempt and, in the process, becoming the oldest player to record 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game.
Paul, who will turn 37 in three weeks, passed former Suns point guard Steve Nash, who was able to accomplish the feat as a member of the Suns at age 36 back in 2010. Paul is now one of five players in NBA history to have 10 playoffs games with 30 points and 10 assists, trailing LeBron James (22) and Michael Jordan (15).
“That’s like inviting me [to] shoot,” Paul said of the Pelicans strategy, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “I know Willie (Pelicans head coach Willie Green); that’s my man. It’s all a part of the game.”
“We went under a couple screens, and he just stood behind and shot the 3 ball,” Green said of Paul. “The mix-ups were on our part, my part as a coach. I have to do better with that coverage. Chris, this is just what he does.”
“That man is a true competitor and a true winner,” Suns guard Devin Booker said of his teammate. “When he wants it that bad, you can see it in his demeanor and see it in his walk, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s built for these moments.”
“It’s just his ability to understand he needs to take over a game,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I don’t think I’ve been around anybody like Chris who has that innate feel for that time.”
The Suns will now look to carry the momentum into Game 2.