Suns’ Paul: ‘I’m grateful to be here with this group’

On Tuesday night, the Phoenix Suns killed two birds with one stone in their 121-110 win over the Lakers. Phoenix eliminated the Lakers from playoff contention, and more importantly, the Suns picked up their 63rd win of the season, setting the franchise record for wins in a season.

The previous record of 62 wins occurred during the 1992-93 and 2004-05 seasons. 

Suns head coach Monty Williams, who became the head man in 2019, helped spearhead the turnaround. Phoenix went from losing 63 games in the 2018-19 season to winning 63 games and possibly more this season.

“It started with the young guys we had that first year, the bubble, last year, and then the individual stuff that we’ve seen guys achieve along the way, and then tonight is unbelievably special for so many people,” Williams said post-game. 

“Not just the organization, but the people in the city that have basically birthed the Suns. Everywhere I go, people talk about the Suns are their baby, and to have us playing this way, achieving this goal tonight is huge for the valley. It’s hard to put it into words, but we’re all pretty grateful, and we talk about celebrating everything, and there’s just so many people that have a huge part in this, from the players, who are the main cogs in it all, but in particular, ownership, James (Jones), but also people like Jay Gaspar and Denise Romero, who just have grown up in this organization and it’s special to see them excited about what we’re doing.”

Maybe the biggest reason for the turnaround in Phoenix was the acquisition of Chris Paul. None of this happens without CP3. Paul also became the first player in NBA history to be a part of four teams that set franchise records for wins, but for the 12-time All-Star, who helped lead the Phoenix to the NBA Finals last season, it’s all about winning a title.

“It’s all good and well,” Paul said. “It would be nice to put a championship with all that. That’s the goal; that’s what we’re working towards. I don’t take that lightly, though, because it’s a lot of work; it’s a lot of hard work that goes into year-in and year-out playing and competing. At the end of the day, you want to have a chance. You at least want to have a chance, and I’m grateful to be here with this group.”

Deandre Ayton was there for the 19-63 season, and he, like everybody else on the Suns, is happy to get to 63 wins.

“Me and Mikal (Bridges) were looking at each other four years ago, bro; we were at the bottom pit of the barrel,” Ayton said. “We almost thought we weren’t a part of the league. For a minute, I thought we were playing people to play us my rookie year, the way that we were losing. We here, man, and seeing all the fans and the community just so happy, just so supportive, all that helps.”

Winning 63 games is all well and good, but the Suns have to cap it off with a championship!

James on Davis: ‘My mindset is that he’s not going to be able to play in Game 6’

The Phoenix Suns are one game away from advancing to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs after routing the Lakers 115-85 in Game 5 at Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday night.

The Suns lead the series 3-2 with a chance to close out the defending champions on Thursday night at Staples Center.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points, and Cameron Payne, who continues to play well in the series, added 16 points off the bench.

Phoenix led by eight after one quarter and took a 66-36 halftime lead. The Suns led by as many as 36 points in this contest.

Phoenix got a little scare in the third quarter when Chris Paul appeared to re-injure his shoulder after trying to box out Wesley Matthews. Paul would leave the game and did not return. 

However, after the game, Paul seemed pretty confident that he would be good to go for Game 6.

‘It’s a little banged up, but I’ll be all right,” Paul said about his shoulder.

The Suns are clearly a better team with Paul on the court, while the Lakers are clearly a worse team when Anthony Davis is not on the court. Davis, who missed most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 due to a groin injury, is hoping to get back on the court for Game 6. 

But, according to LeBron James, who led the Lakers with 24 points on Thursday night, he’s going to prepare for Game 6 like Davis will not be there.

“My mindset is that he’s not going to be able to play in Game 6,” James said. “If something changes, then we’ll go from there. But I’m preparing as if he’s not.”

The Lakers cannot win this series with Davis in street clothes, so they need him on the court to beat the Suns, especially if Paul is healthy. However, never underestimate the heart of a champion. Expect Los Angeles to get a big-time effort out of James and the rest of the Lakers, but it might not be enough without Davis.

Notes:

Lakers’ Dennis Schroder struggled on Tuesday night. He finished 0/9 from the field with zero points and one assist.

Suns’ Crowder on Paul: ‘Everything clicks a little better with 3 on the court’

After making his signature fade-away jumper in third quarter on Sunday, Chris Paul yelled: “I’m back!” Paul, who has been battling a shoulder injury, had 18 points and nine assists as the Suns defeated the Lakers 100-92 in Game 4 of their first-round series at Staples Center.

The Suns regained home-court advantage and tied the series at 2. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

With Paul at his best, the Suns looked like a much different team on Sunday. Phoenix had six players in double figures, including getting 17 points apiece from Devin Booker and Jae Crowder.

“It felt good, man,” Paul said about playing well on the court. “You work all summer, all season to get here, and to not be able to give your team what you want to give them, and to have them out there sort of guarding me, knowing you are somewhat less than, it was a good feeling to be out there competing.”

Before the game, Paul, who scored in double-figures for the first time in this series on Sunday, talked with Suns head coach Monty Williams about the possibility of sitting out Game 4, which he discussed following the team’s victory.

“I’m just glad that me and coach got the relationship, where we can have that conversation,” Paul said. “We talked about it. I told the guys, I said, ‘I don’t know if it would be two minutes; I don’t know if would be 32 minutes, but I feel like I had to try to give you what I got.'”

Crowder knows the Suns need Paul, and according to him, things are just better with Paul on the court. 

“Everything clicks a little better with 3 on the court and 3 being himself,” Crowder said. “That’s vocally, that’s him being vocal with our units. That’s him making plays with the ball in his hands, and I feel like we feed off of that.”

Paul seems like he’s back, but the Lakers’ Anthony Davis could be out. Davis injured his groin in the second quarter on Sunday and did not return.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Davis is day-to-day, and his status for Game 5 is uncertain at this time.

If the Lakers don’t have Davis going forward, they can’t win this series, and if Paul is not right for Suns, they also can’t win this series, so this series could come down to which team is the healthiest. Phoenix has two of the final three games of this series in their building, so on paper, that’s an advantage. We’ll see which team will be good enough to take two out of the final three. 

Notes:

LeBron James had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists on Sunday.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Paul and James both led their teams Sunday in points and assists. It was the first game in NBA history in which two players, age 35 or older, led their team in points and assists (regular season or playoffs).

-Deandre Ayton had 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in Game 4. Ayton is averaging 19.8 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in this series.

 

 

Lakers use big third quarter to defeat Suns in Game 3

The Los Angeles Lakers had their first home playoff game in eight years at Staples Center, and they took full advantage of it. Behind Anthony Davis’ 34 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, and LeBron James’ 21 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. The Lakers defeated the Suns 109-95 in Game 3 of their first-round best of seven game series.

Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Booker scored 19 points.

The Lakers lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. This game turned in the third quarter. The Lakers outscored the Suns by 10 points and led by as many as 17 points in the third. Davis scored 18 points in the quarter, while James added 10 points. The Lakers never looked back, and now they have control of this series.

There were a lot of interesting subplots in this game. In the fourth quarter, LeBron James went head-to-head with Phoenix’s Jae Crowder and scored on a reverse layup, which excited the Lakers bench and the Staples Center crowd. Crowder would be ejected in the fourth. Also, late in the fourth, Booker would get ejected after being called for a Flagrant two foul. Booker shoved Dennis Schroder, who had 20 points in Game 3, while he was in the air. 

“That wasn’t a basketball play, and regular season, it’s probably a suspension as well,” Schroder said after the game.

“It’s a dirty play,” Davis said. “Dennis could’ve really gotten hurt right there.”

James added: “I thought the play wasn’t a basketball play.”

Suns PG Chris Paul, who is battling a shoulder injury, came into Thursday’s action 0-10 in playoffs games refereed by Scott Foster. After losing to the Lakers, Paul is now 0-11 in games officiated by Foster.

Paul never mentioned Foster by name, but at the end of his post-game interview, Paul had this to say:

“11 in a row.”

Watching Paul, who had seven points, six assists, and five rebounds in Game 3, struggle is brutal. Phoenix may have to make a tough decision and sit Paul down because right now, he has been ineffective. In his place, Cameron Payne has played well. Payne scored 15 points and dished out six assists on Thursday night and had a strong Game 2, so it might be time to turn to Payne.

It should be interesting to see how Paul and the Suns respond in Game 4 on Sunday, which is a must-win situation for this team.

 

 

Suns’ Payne: ‘I just work really hard every day to stay here’

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul gave the team everything he had on Tuesday night in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers, but he was clearly hampered after injuring his shoulder in the team’s Game 1 victory.

In 23 minutes last night, Paul had six points and five assists in the Suns’ 109-102 loss to the Lakers at Phoenix Suns Arena. With the win, the Lakers evened the series 1-1. The series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 starting on Thursday night. 

Without Paul, the Suns got solid production from backup point guard Cameron Payne, who scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter in Game 2. Payne, who also added six assists against the Lakers, was signed by the Suns before the bubble last season and performed well during the team’s eight-game run in Orlando. 

While Payne got an opportunity on Tuesday night, he was disappointed for Paul. 

“It’s always tough to see anybody on our team down,” Payne said. “We’ll get him back. It was tough, but we got next man mentality. Everybody gotta be ready.”

After trailing by 15 points in the third quarter, the Suns took their first lead in the second half in the fourth quarter with Payne on the court. According to Payne, the Suns have that never say die attitude. 

“I feel like we have been in those positions before,” Payne said about the team coming from behind. “We just feel like we can win every game, so we just keep willing.”

The 26-year-old Payne has bounced around the NBA during his five-year career, including spending time in the G League and overseas. Payne, who averaged 8.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game this season, wants to stay in the NBA, and he will do everything in his power to make sure that happens. 

“Before, I would probably say I was comfortable,” he said. “I listened; I just didn’t take it in… I work hard; I work to keep my job. I gotta earn it all, so I go in humble but confident. I just have to keep working hard, and the work shows. Go in and get my reps. He(Monty Williams) got this quote, “Reps remove doubt.” When I get out there on the court, I put the work in… Your job could be gone.  It hit me in the face already. I got hit with that reality check, and I don’t want to not be in the league, so I just work really hard every day to stay here.”

With how things are looking for Paul, Payne will have a great opportunity with the Suns, and they’re going to need him to be at his very best if they want to advance. The goal is to get Paul healthy, but if that does not happen, it’s on Payne to try to help pull Phoenix through.

Report: Porzingis fined $50K for attending club

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Dallas Mavericks’ Kristaps Porzingis has been fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating the rule prohibiting players from going into bars, clubs, lounges, or similar establishment regardless of vaccination status. 

Porzingis attended a club on Sunday, according to the report.

The 25-year-old Porzingis finished with 14 points on Saturday in the team’s win over the Clippers in Game 1 of their first-round series. The Mavericks will battle the Clippers in Game 2 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Recently, LeBron James came under fire for attending a party in Los Angeles. James did violate the league’s health and safety protocols, but he was not suspended.

Hopefully, this won’t be a distraction for the Mavericks as they try to sweep the first two games in Los Angeles.

Mavs’s Carlisle: ‘Dwight [Powell] ‘s one of the best rollers I’ve ever seen in this league’

After defeating the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, the Dallas Mavericks(33-26) knew that defeating the Lakers(35-25) in the second game of their two-game set at American Airlines Center would be difficult on Saturday night, especially without Kristaps Porzingis(ankle).

The Lakers started fast and led by as much as 17 points in the second quarter and took a 58-46 lead into halftime.

Los Angeles did a great job of trapping Luka Doncic in the first half, and he had three turnovers in the second quarter. Dallas made adjustments, and Doncic, who finished the game with 18 points, had 10 of his 13 assists in the second half, and Dwight Powell, who was 11-12 from the field, scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half as the Mavericks defeated the Lakers 108-93 to sweep the two-game set. 

The Lakers, who were led by Ben McLemore’s 20 points, were without LeBron James(ankle) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope(ankle). Dennis Schroder added 16 points and 10 assists.

Basketball is a game of adjustments, and the Mavericks made adjustments, which opened things up for Doncic and Powell.

“We weren’t spaced well enough in the first half,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “In the second half, our spacing was better. Our angles were better. He was just really on point in the second half. The things that we changed made the game a lot easier for him and Dwight [Powell] and Willie [Cauley-Stein] and all of the guys rolling. That was big.”

According to Doncic, who experienced double teams in Europe, the wider NBA court made it easier to break the traps.

“I mean, they were double-teaming me,” he said. “In Europe, I used to do this a lot, and I know how it goes, but here the floor is wider, and so it’s kind of easier.”

Powell added: ‘”We’ve got to make ourselves available. We know he’s going to make the right reads, so we’ve got be ready for whatever opportunity comes our way, whether it’s a shot or a drive or another pass to off the assist, or whatever it may be. So the biggest need is showing up your hand when they’re sending two guys at him, having his back and taking advantage of those opportunities.”

This was Powell’s third game as a starter for Dallas, and the six-year veteran, who ruptured his Achilles tendon last January, is back to his previous form, according to Carlisle.

“Dwight [Powell] ‘s one of the best rollers I’ve ever seen in this league,” Carlisle said. “He has great timing; he has great feel; he has great hands. He’s not super tall, but he really gets up. This is also a strong testament to the amount of work he put in over the last year-and-a-half-plus to recover from an injury that is extremely difficult for high-level athletes. But I look out there now, and I don’t see any difference now from the Dwight Powell before the injury, and that just speaks to an amazing amount of work put in.”

With the win, Dallas is in sole possession of the sixth seed in the West and moved to 1.5 games of the fifth-seeded Lakers. Dallas wants to avoid the Play-In Tournament, so this was a big sweep for the Mavericks.

Dallas is on a three-game winning streak and begin a three-game road trip starting on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings.

Notes: 

-The 17-point deficit the Mavericks overcame was the largest comeback of the season.

 -The Mavericks improved to 17-5 when Doncic records a double-double and 12-1 when he records between 10 and 14 assists (the Mavs are weirdly 0-4 when he gets over 14 assists).

 

Mavs’ Doncic; ‘No matter how we’re not trying to be in the Play-In Tournament’

The Dallas Mavericks moved up in the standing after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 115-110 at American Airlines Center on Thursday night. With the win, Dallas(32-26) and Portland(32-26) are tied for the sixth spot in the Western Conference. 

Dallas, who have won two straight, concludes their five-game homestand when they play the Lakers(35-24) in the second game of their two-game set on Saturday night.

Luka Doncic again led the way for the Mavericks with 30 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. He now leads the NBA this season with 18 games of 30-plus points, five-plus rebounds, and five-plus assists.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with a season and team-high 29 points, including six threes, and Dennis Schroder added 25. 

After the game, Doncic reacted to moving on up to sixth-seed in the Western Conference.

“I think that’s great,” he said. “We’re just trying to get into the playoffs. No matter how we’re not trying to be in the Play-In Tournament. We’re trying to keep moving up.”

While they got the victory, not all was good for the Mavericks. Kristaps Porzingis, who had 19 points and six rebounds, left the game in the third quarter due to a left ankle sprain. 

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is hoping the injury is not too severe. 

“[Kristaps Porzingis’] left ankle — he rolled it [and we’re] uncertain as to the severity,” Carlisle said. “We’re hoping it’s not too severe. I don’t think he’s been ruled out for Saturday yet, but with ankles, a lot of it’s about how the player is feeling the next morning. We’ll see where he is tomorrow. He was in pretty good spirits After the game. He is walking. He’s not in a boot or anything at this point, although he has it wrapped with some elastic tape. Anyhow, we had a lot of guys contribute.”

While Los Angeles was still without LeBron James, Thursday marked the return of Anthony Davis, who missed 30 games due to a calf injury. Davis finished with four points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. 

“I felt fine,’ Davis said. “My wind felt better than expected. I had looks that I missed, but I felt good out there to give the team some juice. Going through the second half was tough watching everything that was happening and not being able to play, though.”

Defeating the Lakers on Thursday night was not easy, and beating the Lakers on Saturday night will probably be even more challenging for Dallas, especially if they don’t have Porzingis. But, if they want to continue to move up in the standings, they have to keep winning. 

 

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on James: ‘There is a reason why he is who he is’

For the Cavs(8-9), defeating the world champion Los Angeles Lakers(14-4) is a tall order, but defeating the Lakers when LeBron James scores 21 points in a quarter is nearly impossible. 

James returned to Cleveland on Monday night and went off. In 38 minutes, James was 19/26 from the field, including 7/11 from three-point range, and finished with 46 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. The four-time MVP scored 21 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers moved to 10-0 on the road with a 115-108 victory over Cleveland. 

At 36, James became the fifth player 36 or older to score 46 points or more in an NBA game.

“You take your hat off to him,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about James. “There is a reason why he is who he is, and he accomplished all the things that he’s accomplished. If he’s making shots like that, you pat him on the butt. You try to do more the next time and force him to take an even more difficult shot. When a guy is doing what he did tonight, he’s hard to deal with.”

Andre Drummond led the way for Cleveland with a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds.

After getting blown out in Boston on Sunday, Bickerstaff wanted a better effort from the Cavaliers on Monday, and he got it. Cleveland was right there with the Lakers all night long and led by two heading into the fourth quarter.

“I think they responded the right way,” he said. “This game was not lost by our effort. It was not lost by our scrap. They gave us what they had tonight. They competed. They played together; they competed together. That’s not where this game was lost tonight.”

Bickerstaff was not happy with the officiating, and he felt the officials did not give his team the same respect they gave the Lakers. Los Angeles shot 12 more free throws than Cleveland on Monday night. 

“I think it was some momentum-changing calls that were made or weren’t made,” he said. “I think our guys showed up and gave the effort to deserve the respect that both teams should garner, and tonight, I don’t think that was the case. The Lakers are a hell of a basketball team, don’t get me wrong. They deserve everything they have coming, but our guys scrap and play hard and deserve the same.

“Were there plays that we made down the stretch where we could’ve made better decisions, sure. When you’re in a position where your playing uphill, you have to be even better and be even more certain with your decisions, your shot selection, your defensive execution, so we could’ve been better there as well, but it’s hard to overcome the champs-plus.”

The Cavaliers went 2-2 in this four-game stretch against the Nets(2x), Celtics, and Lakers. Going 2-2 is a win for this team, and outside of the Boston game, they played some pretty good basketball, which is progress. Now, they prepare the Pistons on Wednesday night.

Mavs’ Carlisle on Luka: ‘He’s already one of the faces of the NBA’

In just over two seasons, Mavericks G Luka Doncic has turned himself into one of the NBA’s better players. Last season, Doncic averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. In the playoffs, Doncic upped his game and averaged 31.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per contest, including a memorable buzzer-beater in Game 4 of the Mavericks first-round matchup against the Clippers.

The stars come out in the NBA on Christmas, and the 21-year-old Doncic is one of those stars. Dallas(0-1) will battle LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the world-champion Lakers(0-1) at Staples Center on Christmas day.

Dallas returns to playing on Christmas for the first time in nine years, and one of the reasons the Mavericks are playing on Christmas is because of Doncic, who, according to Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, is one of the faces of the NBA.

“He’s already one of the faces of the NBA,” Carlisle said on Thursday. “If you haven’t noticed, he’s in almost all of the NBA ads. I’ve seen him on some billboards that aren’t in the state of Texas. He’s a great ambassador for the NBA game. 

“He has the charisma; he has the game, and he has the following. So, he’s got an amazing future ahead of him, but also a lot going on right now. He’s up for this. He’s one of the few 21-year-olds that I can imagine that actually has the bandwidth to deal with all these different things.”

It’s clear that Doncic is one of the faces of the league, and if he continues playing at a high level, which he did on Wednesday night when he scored 32 points and the team’s 106-102 loss to the Suns, Doncic could be the most prominent face in the NBA. However, for that to happen, he must continue to make memories on the league’s biggest stages and ultimately, he has to win, which if the first couple years are any indication, could happen sooner than later.