Phoenix ties series; Lakers’ Davis hurt

LOS ANGELES – Phoenix Suns manager Monty Williams initially planned to use Chris Paul for Game 4 against the Lakers. A prolonged shoulder injury had reduced the point guard to a fraction of itself, and Williams didn’t think Paul could help in a crucial game.

Paul changed his coach’s mind in an emotional conversation before Sunday’s game.

“He said, ‘Coach, let me start, and if you don’t think I look like I normally do, then take me out and we have to go in a different direction,'” said Williams. “This is one of those situations where I had to trust the player.”

By the time Paul finished orchestrating his great second half, the Suns only went one way: back to Phoenix with a 2-2 streak and a vastly increased confidence in these playoff newbies’ ability to knock out the defending champions.

Paul had 18 points and nine assists, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder added 17 points each, and the Suns finished the first round streak with a 100-92 win.

Deandre Ayton had 14 points and 17 rebounds for the runner-up Suns, who took advantage of Anthony Davis’ absence in the second half with a groin injury to regain their home advantage in the series after two straight defeats.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Paul was largely a non-factor in Game 3 of his first postseason with his new team and was obviously struggling to get shots in his diseased right arm. After two days of not touching basketball, Paul looked better in training before Sunday’s game – and then looked a lot sharper in-game. In the second half of the Suns First Street, he carried 12 points and assists all of his playoff wins in over 11 years.

Paul was grateful that Williams was receptive to his ardent desire to play. He also reassured his teammates that he would only hold out if he could help, telling Crowder and others, “I don’t know how long it will take, but if you all feel like I look like trash out here, just tell me and I’ll get out. “

“I hadn’t touched a basketball or anything since the last game,” added Paul. “We haven’t had a lot of people who have missed a lot of games this season so we’re used to playing a certain way. I was just happy to be out there and help.”

The Lakers had exactly this problem: without Davis, the champions can’t play the way they want – and this time even LeBron James couldn’t save them.

Davis scored six points in the 2v9 shootout in the first half but did not return after half time. The big superstar scored 34 points on each of the Lakers’ two wins in the series, but he hyperextended his leg in Game 3 and then seemed to aggravate his accumulated injury problems in the second quarter of Game 4, falling awkwardly and grabbing his leg at one of Crowder’s defended layup attempt.

James had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who fell too far behind in the third quarter while Davis was rated in the locker room. Before its last-minute surge, Los Angeles battled in the absence of starters Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who injured their knee in Game 3.

HAWKS 113, KNICKS 96

ATLANTA – Trae Young scored 27 points, John Collins added 22 despite a slap on the lip, and Atlanta again frustrated Julius Randle and the New York Knicks, pulling back a 3-1 lead in the second half.

The Hawks will look to celebrate their first win in the playoff series since 2016 when they travel to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Randle was again greeted by chants of “Overrated! Overrated! Overrated!” every time he put one up. The roar was deafening after a sequence in the third when Randle missed a ride and had a set back edge before the Knicks got the ball out of play.

Randle’s frustration boiled over less than a minute later when he slammed Collins into the square on another ride. Nothing was mentioned initially, but Randle was classified as an offensive foul following a video review sparked by a challenge from Hawk’s coach Nate McMillan.

Randle had his highest-scoring game of the series with 23 points in 7-of-19 shooting.

Los Angeles Lakers center Marc Gasol (left) celebrates after a goal as Cameron Sunne (center) and Cameron Cameron (Phoenix Suns) in the first half of the fourth game of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series on Sunday, Jan. May, stand in the background. 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond (above) and Phoenix Suns Guardian Chris Paul leave after rebounding in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series on Sunday, May 30th May 2021, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond (above) and Phoenix Suns Guardian Chris Paul leave after rebounding in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series on Sunday, May 30th May 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)

Cameron Payne (left) of Phoenix Suns shoots as Alex Caruso, the Los Angeles Lakers Guardian, shoots in the first half of the fourth game of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series on Sunday May 30, 2021 in Los Angeles Angeles defends.  (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)

Cameron Payne (left) of Phoenix Suns shoots as Alex Caruso, the Los Angeles Lakers Guardian, shoots in the first half of the fourth game of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series on Sunday May 30, 2021 in Los Angeles Angeles defends. (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)

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