Why Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul is the NBA’s best fourth-quarter player

If you have the nickname “Mr. 4th quarter,” and just think of prolific goalscorers who turn it up when the game is balanced… I don’t blame you. Players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and if you look specifically at the 2016-17 season, the Phoenix Suns’ old guard Isaiah Thomas immediately springs to mind.

Throughout history, scoring has been synonymous with the word “clutch,” and being a clutch player automatically means the ability to make shots when the stakes get highest.

However, what if there was a player who displayed great generalship, defensive cunning and unparalleled intelligence to rack up wins – while still scoring in crunch time?

Insert a Chris Paul.

In general, anyone who scores in time and does everything else beyond that is better than just a goal scorer, right? With that in mind, one has to look beyond Chris Paul’s total score every night and appreciate his wealth of skills that allow him to finish games.

Monday’s contest last illustrated the greatness of CP3. Paul prevailed with 12 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as the Suns headed into the closing stages. While solid, these numbers didn’t jump out at anyone. Immediately afterwards, however, he went one better and finished the game with 27 points, 13 assists and nine boards.

Chris Paul had 15 points and 3 assists in Monday’s 4th quarter, a win over Utah

According to @Stathead Monday was his:

· 9th double digit scoring 4th of 21-22
· 4th last period with 2+ 3 p.m. in 21-22
10th 10+ point 3+ assist 4th as Sun (5th this season)

via @nbastats pic.twitter.com/jOXtNeUWaY

— Stephen ☯️🏁 (@StayTrueSDot3) January 26, 2022

No player influences the fourth quarter as much as Paul. People like Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan, especially this season, come to mind as reasonable arguments against that claim.

However, their effects depend solely on the rating, which is just an entity of the game. That’s not to belittle what they do, as basketball goal scoring remains a skill they all master, but Paul’s aforementioned all-around ability in tight games sets him apart from the crowd.

The Suns have a +3.4 point differential and a league-best 16-3 record in games counted as “clutch.” However, Paul is the lifeblood for these numbers as he alone is +2.9 in the fourth.

When you put his roles as both the primary presenter and goalscorer in the latter stages in context, his effectiveness shines through.

Average in the fourth quarter:

  • 5.5 points
  • Shooting 52.7% (3rd best for players making more than 3 shots per 4th)
  • 2.8 Assists (Best League)

Paul pulls strings on sets (sometimes spamming over the same ones), plays chess with opposing coaches, and forces their hands into pick-and-roll coverage. He also knows how to work his way up to the bonus with tearing free throws and, on the other hand, easily loosen or disturb the ball properly from his opponents.

Paul acts as the league’s lead tactician, deploying the correct suns needed to influence the direction of the game based on the demands of each game.

Honestly, he’s mostly himself in the fourth quarter.

With all those tools on display and the numbers to back them up, he truly resembles the NBA’s proverbial “Mariano Rivera.”

At the point in the game where A.) the spotlight is brightest and most guys flinch, and B.) tanks are low and “mental stamina,” as Monty Williams often puts it, so consistently cerebral to being is a huge factor, Paul’s overall talent cannot be overstated.

He resembles a player every franchise with championship aspirations craves, a player every coach wants in “Buy Time,” and a present-moment master. He’s Mr. 4th Quarter.

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