Chris Paul scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and also contributed 11 assists and six rebounds to help the Phoenix Suns record a 122-105 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets in the opening game of the Western Conference semi-finals on Monday night.
Mikal Bridges scored 23 points, Devin Booker notched 21 points and eight assists, and Deandre Ayton contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns. Phoenix outscored Denver 59-33 over the final 19 minutes, 34 seconds.
Nikola Jokic registered 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots for the third-seeded Nuggets.
Aaron Gordon scored 18 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 15 points, Facundo Campazzo tallied 14 points and JaMychal Green had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Denver.
Game 2 will be Wednesday night, also in Phoenix.
Jae Crowder added 14 points for the Suns, who shot 54.1 percent from the field, including 13 of 34 from 3-point range.
The Nuggets connected on 46.7 per cent of their shots and were 14 of 40 from behind the arc.
Denver held a 72-63 lead after two free throws by Austin Rivers with 7:34 left in the third quarter before the Suns exploded for 16 straight points en route to controlling the remainder of the contest.
Ayton's three-point play put Phoenix ahead at 74-72 with 4:26 left in the third before Booker nailed a 3-pointer and Bridges added a basket to complete the run and give the Suns a seven-point lead.
Porter knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:22 left to end a Denver scoring drought of 4:12.
The Nuggets were again within four later in the stanza before Phoenix rattled off 11 consecutive points. Ayton's dunk and Bridges' 3-pointer gave the Suns an 88-79 lead entering the fourth quarter before Dario Saric scored a basket and Paul knocked down back-to-back jumpers to make it 94-79 with 10:27 left in the contest.
Paul Millsap scored in the interior with 10 minutes left to halt the Phoenix run. But the Suns kept the heat on as Paul converted a three-point play and a 3-pointer and Cameron Payne fed the alley-oop to Torrey Craig for a ferocious dunk that increased the Phoenix lead to 102-84 with 8:36 left.
Crowder later knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 114-97 with 3:34 left, and Booker added a jumper 26 seconds later to end any suspense. The Suns' lead topped out at 20 points.
Jokic had 15 first-half points as the Nuggets held a 58-57 lead at the break.