Why the Game 1 Win Was Significant for Suns

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PHOENIX — The last time we saw Chris Paul in the playoffs, he was sending home the Pelicans on a perfect shooting night. On Monday, we didn’t see him as much as we’re accustomed to.

The Suns took Game 1 against the Mavs in their second-round series with a 121–114 win. Paul, who scored 33 in the Round 1 clincher, played only 29 minutes in the victory, an indicator of how balanced his Phoenix team is. Dallas, on the other hand, got 45 points from Luka Dončić, but not much from everyone else. Every Suns starter scored in double figures, compared to only three for the Mavericks. Deandre Ayton actually led Phoenix in scoring despite missing his last five shots (he still converted on 60% from the field). Meanwhile, the same Dallas backcourt that had significant success against the Jazz wasn’t as much of a factor Monday—Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for only 21 points on 9-of-24 shooting.

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The contrast in styles between these teams was evident from the start in Game 1. Phoenix got off to a hot start, with each of its five starters scoring a field goal before anyone else made their second. The ball movement and egalitarian approach were hallmarks of the Suns’ success during the regular season, and the team-wide onslaught allowed Phoenix to hang a 130.1 offensive rating on the NBA’s sixth-best defense from the regular season. The Suns finished with 27 assists compared to their opponent’s 16.

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And doing so without putting a heavy burden on Paul is a big win. The Point God took on an extra dose of responsibility during the first round when Devin Booker missed three games (and a fourth quarter) with a hamstring injury. CP3 averaged nearly 37 minutes a night against New Orleans. On Monday, he played under 30 minutes for only the second time since he returned from a hand injury on March 24. Phoenix coach Monty Williams said after the game he wasn’t thinking about Round 1 when he gave Paul an extended break in the second, but in general he likes to get Paul extra rest when he can. The big lead the Suns built in the first half—going up by as much as 14 in the second quarter—gave Williams the luxury to ride other units.

That’s not to say Paul was thrilled. Williams said CP had some “choice words” for him when he took Paul out again in the third quarter.

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