NBA playoffs: Chris Paul dominates late to lead Suns comeback charge against Nuggets in Game 1

Paul supported by high-scoring team performance, with Bridges, Booker and Ayton all hitting more than 20 points in Phoenix

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) passes as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) defends during the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, June 7, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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.

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