Rejuvenated Paul Leads Suns Over Nuggets 122-105 in Game 1

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In the opening minutes of Monday night’s game, Chris Paul was bumped on his ailing right shoulder and grimaced for a second. His movements were a little tentative, his shots didn’t look quite right.

Then — seemingly almost out of nowhere — the “Point God” was back.

One mid-range jumper fell and then another. A short floater found the net and then a 3-pointer splashed home as the crowd roared. The 11-time All-Star looked like his usual self, the rest of the Suns followed suit and Phoenix rallied for a 122-105 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

“It was fun to get out there and be involved,” Paul said. “That last series – that was tough – but I’m glad to be back helping the team.”

Paul and his rejuvenated right shoulder finished with 21 points and 11 assists while Mikal Bridges added a team-high 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 8 from behind the arc.

The Suns trailed for most of the first half and 70-60 early in the third quarter but rallied to take the lead by late in the third. Devin Booker made a 3-pointer and Bridges added a driving layup for a 79-72 advantage.

They pushed the lead to 88-79 going into the fourth. Paul — who played with the hurt shooting shoulder through most of the first round matchup against the Lakers — made back-to-back mid-range jumpers to put the Suns up 94-79 with 10:25 left.

“We felt that energy,” Booker said. “We felt the passion. He just made plays.”

The flurry came much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 16,319, who anxiously watched the point guard’s every move.

“This crowd is crazy,” Paul said. “There’s nothing like it. This is why we fought so hard during the regular season to get home court advantage.”

Paul’s buckets were the final exclamation points on a 34-9 run that helped Phoenix take control. Deandre Ayton finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Booker added 21 points.

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