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Chris Paul and Suns take control in Game 2 win over Nuggets

Chris Paul in Suns-Nuggets Game 2

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 9: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns dribbles the ball against the Denver Nuggets during Round 2, Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 9, 2021 at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Chris Paul got Michael Porter Jr. switched onto him then drained a 3-pointer from the right wing. On the Suns’ next possession, Paul again called for a screen involving Porter on the right wing. Porter stumbled in no man’s land between the screener and Paul, just seemingly wanting nothing to do with Paul even knowing switching onto Paul was his assignment.

Paul hit another 3-pointer.

Paul tortured the Nuggets, leading Phoenix to a 123-98 win in Game 3 Wednesday. Paul’s final stat line – 17 points, 15 assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers – has been matched in a playoff game by only Magic Johnson and… Paul himself (in 2008 with New Orleans).

Teams that won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 94% of the time. The Suns appear to be in even greater command of this series, having won by 17 and 25.

In an oddity, Paul or Phoenix were involved the only three times a team won the first two games at home by more than 15 then lost series. The 1995 Suns won by 22 and 24 then lost to the Rockets. Paul’s Hornets won by 19 and 18 then lost to the Spurs in 2008, and Paul’s Clippers won by 20 and 21 then lost to the Trail Blazers in 2016.

But Paul got injured in that Portland series. Now, he looks increasingly healthy after hurting his shoulder against the Lakers in the first round.

Plus, Paul has plenty of help.

Devin Booker (18 points and 10 rebounds), Deandre Ayton (15 points and 10 rebounds), Mikal Bridges (16 points), Jae Crowder (11 points) and Torrey Craig (10 points) all had their moments tonight. Beyond box-score stats, Phoenix vigorously defended. This was such a complete performance by a deep team.

A day after winning MVP, Denver center Nikola Jokic (24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists) played pretty well. But other Nuggets shot just 36% on 2-pointers and 28% on 3-pointers through three quarters.

The fourth quarter was basically garbage time.

Porter (3-for-13) struggled after hurting his back in Game 1 – and his 11 points still ranked second among starters! Aaron Gordon (six points), Austin Rivers (six points) and Facundo Campazzo (three points) just don’t provide enough dependable firepower.

Will Barton, returning from injury, provided a spark with 10 points off the bench. But he’s not the guard Denver needs.

Without Jamal Murray, Denver is hard-pressed to challenge a team as good as Phoenix.