Goodbye, Denver Nuggets.
Hello Western Conference finals.
The Phoenix Suns completed a conference semifinals sweep with Sunday's 125-118 Game 4 victory over the Nuggets before 18,290 fans at Ball Arena.
Chris Paul once again took over in scoring a game-high 37 points in leading the second-seeded Suns into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010, which was the last time they made the playoffs.© Isaiah J. Downing, Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports Jun 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets during game four in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
"He did what Chris Paul does," Suns forward Jae Crowder said. "Point guard, 'Point God,' whatever you want to call him, he controlled the game the entire game."
Devin Booker went for 34 points as the second-seeded Suns set a franchise record for most consecutive playoff wins at seven.
Mikal Bridges added 14 while Deandre Ayton chipped in 12.
"It's a feeling that's kind of hard to put into words," Booker said. "You always reflect after a game like this or you close a series out, you sit back and reflect a little bit and think about what we've been through as an organization and as a team. Even in the short time (Suns coach) Monty (Williams) has been here, just watching the culture develop and watching players getting better every day and people putting their hard hats on and come into work every day. It's a beautiful sight to to see hard work pay off. "© Isaiah J. Downing, Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports Jun 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets during game four in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
At the heart of Phoenix's first series sweep since 2010 is the 36-year-old point guard who came to the Suns from Oklahoma City via trade before the season and been instrumental in the team's complete turnaround from a 19-win season in 2018-19.
The 16-year veteran scored 12 of his game-high 37 points in the third quarter on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting in keeping the Nuggets at bay. Making nine consecutive shots at one point, Paul scored 25 points in the second half on 10-of-12 shooting.
"He was darn near perfect all night long," Williams said. "Scoring the ball, managing the clock."
So it seemed only fitting Paul and Williams shared a special hug after the game as the two have been reunited this season after last being together 10 years ago in New Orleans and find themselves in the conference finals.
"It's emotional," Paul said. "Mont has been through things in his life that a lot of people don't necessarily come back from."© David Zalubowski, AP Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left, congratulates guard Chris Paul late in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver. Phoenix won 125-118 to sweep the series. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski).
Williams lost his wife, Ingrid, in a car accident in 2016, as Paul, who was with the Los Angeles Clippers at the time, attended the funeral.
Now Paul has helped Williams advance further than he ever has as a coach in the postseason.
"Who he is as a person," Paul continued. "Basketball aside, he means so much to me and my family. So to be on this journey with him and to see it paying off is nice. We're a lot alike. We stay locked in. I don't feel good until the buzzer sounds and Mont is the same way. So when the series is over and the game is over, it's nice to share those moments."
Before the final buzzer sounded, the Nuggets lost Nikola Jokic, who was ejected after drawing a flagrant 2 on a foul on Cameron Payne with 3:52 left in third.
"I think it was something along the lines of windup, malicious intent," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Some other mumbo jumbo, but obviously, you lose the MVP, it's going to make it even harder to try to stave off elimination."
In appearing to go for the strip in the backcourt, Jokic caught Payne in the face and nose on the follow through. Booker confronted Jokic about the foul and received a technical and he and Jokic had to be separated.© David Zalubowski, AP Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, squares off against Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA second-round playoff series Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
"'What are you doing,'" said Booker about what he initially said to Jokic. "I think it was just an emotional play. I don't know he meant harm by it after but just a frustration foul. It was tough. Just defending my teammate. That was it."
After the ejection, Jokic did walk up to Payne and shook his hand before leaving the court area.
"I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy, so I tried to make a hard foul," said Jokic, who didn't think he'd be ejected. "Did I hit him? We don't know. I say sorry, if I did, because I didn't want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose."
The Suns went on a 13-5 run in building, their largest lead of 16 late in the quarter after the ejection. Jokic closed out his NBA MVP season with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.
"With Nikola going out, it was very tough," Nuggets guard Monte Morris said. "We've never been in that position all season with him not playing or being out there."
The Nuggets drew as close as four with 8:01 left in the game, but Phoenix, led by Paul, took control late to eliminate the third seed.
With Phoenix up six, Paul scored five quick points with the latter coming off a steal by Mikal Bridges on Will Barton to give Phoenix an 114-103 lead as Denver coach Michael Malone called a timeout with 2:56 left in the game.
"It's a closeout game and a lot of emotions, a lot of guys who want it and he just did a good job of calming us down when we got sped up a little bit and I think he managed the game the entirety of the game," Crowder said.
The Suns will play either the Utah Jazz or Los Angeles Clippers in the conference finals.
The top-seeded Jazz are up 2-1 after Saturday's 132-106 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles. Game 4 is Monday at STAPLES Center.
The conference finals will begin June 20 if the Clippers-Jazz series ends in five or six games. If that best-of-7 series goes seven, the conference finals will start June 22.
"Everybody, at this point, is banged up and can use that type of recovery," Williams said. "We've earned it and we want to take advantage it. So I'll talk to the coaches and our medical staff and training staff and see the best way to approach these next few days, but right now, I'm not even thinking about that, man. I'm just happy about what these guys have accomplished and grateful to be a part of it and I hope our fans back in Phoenix and the state of Arizona are feeling the same way I do. This is a special time to be a Suns fan and everybody should enjoy it right now."
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns sweep Denver Nuggets in advancing to Western Conference finals for first time since 2010
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nba/chris-paul-phoenix-suns-sweep-denver-nuggets-in-advancing-to-western-conference-finals-for-first-time-since-2010/ar-AAL0Euw11773