Tagged in: phoenix

Paul has triple-double, NBA-leading Suns top Clippers 106-89

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have turned into some of the league’s best closers. It’s a big reason they’ve reached 30 victories before any other team in the NBA this season.

Paul had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Suns improved to 25-0 when leading after three quarters by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-89 on Thursday night.

As usual, the 36-year-old Paul was the maestro making big plays in the final minutes to close out the Clippers. He hit a crucial 3-pointer and had five assists in the fourth quarter.

“Some teams’ biggest issue is that they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch,” Paul said. “I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are.”

The Suns moved a game ahead of Golden State for the best record in the league. They’ve won three consecutive and four of five. That’s despite several players missing considerable time this season, including All-Star guard Devin Booker.

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“I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We have unreal guard play, which really helps.”

Paul continues to look 26 years old instead of 36, doing a little of everything to keep the Suns among the league’s elite.

His 13 rebounds were a career high in his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

Cam Johnson added a career-high 24 points, and Jalen Smith — the second-year forward whose playing time has drastically increased recently because of the Suns’ COVID-19 issues — had another good game with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

“We’re having a lot of fun playing together,” Johnson said. “Things are starting to click.”

Those performances helped offset a tough night for Booker, who shot just 5 of 22 from the field and finished with 11 points. He was 0 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Williams stated center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee have all cleared the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but were held out of the game as they work their way back into shape. Guard Landry Shamet is still in the protocol.

The Clippers dropped below .500 at 19-20 despite a season-high 26 points from former Suns forward Marcus Morris Sr. Reggie Jackson added 16. The Clippers were missing guards Luke Kennard and Xavier Moon, along with center Ivica Zubac, because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We scraped and competed,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game.”

The Suns led by 17 points midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers cut it to 73-66 in the next few minutes. The Suns took a 75-66 lead into the final quarter.

The Clippers pulled to 79-76 with 8:36 left when Amir Coffey converted a three-point play after making a layup while being fouled. But the Suns responded with the next six points and slowly pulled away.

The Suns jumped out to a 56-40 halftime lead after outscoring the Clippers by 15 in the second quarter. Johnson led the Suns with 17 points before the break. Morris had 13 for the Clippers.

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Curry scores 46, Warriors hold off pesky Grizzlies 113-104

Stephen Curry scored 46 points and made eight 3-pointers, Gary Payton Jr. added a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter and the Golden State Warriors held off the Mempihs Grizzlies 113-104 on Thursday night.

Payton concluded with 22 points and Draymond Green had nine assists to help the Warriors improve an NBA-best 16-2 record at home. The Warriors (26-6) remain one-half game behind the Suns (26-5) for the best record in the NBA, with the teams set to meet on Christmas in Phoenix.

“That’s about as good as it gets against a very physical defense with great size,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “Over the last 10-12 games, Memphis had the best defensive rating in the league. For Steph to go out and get 46, he showed every bit of his talent tonight. This was his most efficient game in a couple weeks, for sure.”

The Warriors led comfortably most of the second half before the Grizzlies made a late push and tied it at 102-all on De’Anthony Melton’s layup. But Juan Tosco-Anderson scored on a reverse, Payton made his fourth 3 and Curry scurried past three defenders in the key for a layup to help Golden State pull away.

Curry and Green both noted the significance of the win, citing the Grizzlies triumph over the Warriors in the play-in game last season.

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“Definitely wanted this one,” said Curry, who twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter but noted he was OK. “Definitely felt like it was one (we) cant let slip by because of the history but also because knowing what it’s going to take to win a game like this. You carry that chip on your shoulder and understand this is our home court.”

Ja Morant had 21 points for Memphis, which had won its previous six road matches.

“We got a ton of good looks in the paint, missed 30 shots, couldn’t get our 3-ball going,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They’re a hard team to beat. They played really well tonight.

With MVP chants ringing throughout the night, Curry made 13 of 22 shots (8 of 14 beyond the arc) and was 12 for 12 on free throws to top the 30-point mark for the 12th time this season and the 225th of his career.

“He had a great offensive night,” Green said. “He found space tonight. Guys did a good job of trying to get him the ball and not forcing it. You let a guy like that get clean looks, it starts an avalanche.”

The Grizzlies got off to a fast start, connecting on 13 of their first 19 shots to take a 10-point lead.

Golden State, which blew a 19-point lead when the two teams played in October, came back to tie it at 51 following Tosco-Anderson’s one-handed dunk and two free throws from Curry.

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Coach Mike Budenholzer signs 3-year extension with Milwaukee Bucks

After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years, coach Mike Budenholzer has signed a multiyear contract extension with the team.

The deal, revealed Tuesday night, is for three years, sources told ESPN.

Budenholzer — who was entering the final year of his deal — now ties himself to the Bucks through the 2024-25 season. His extension punctuates three seasons that include a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and the championship victory over the Phoenix Suns in July.

“The appreciation I have for being a part of the Bucks organization is hard to express,” Budenholzer said in a statement. “The players make the success happen on and off the court.

We have the best players and to them I am grateful. They’ve grown and we’ve grown together during the last three campaigns.

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“We all can’t wait to get back to work and face the great challenge of competing again for an NBA Championship. … Let’s keep getting better and building great teams and doing great work on and off the court.”

A two-time NBA coach of the year, Budenholzer is 31-17 in the playoffs as Bucks coach, including the 2021 NBA title and trips to the conference finals and semifinals.

He’s 172-65 as Bucks coach in the regular season.

“Bud is a great coach and a fantastic partner to work with every day as we build a team that consistently competes for championships,” said Bucks general manager Jon Horst.

“We’re extremely grateful for the leadership Bud provides and we look forward to building on the success we’ve had over the last three years and congratulate Bud on this well-deserved extension.”

Before arriving in Milwaukee in 2018, Budenholzer led the Hawks to the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Atlanta. He had a 213-197 record with the Hawks.

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Without Giannis, Bucks beat Hawks 123-112 for 3-2 lead

Brook Lopez scored a playoff career-high 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 on Thursday night for a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Bucks are one victory away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. They won their lone NBA title in 1971.

Four of their starters had at least 22 points: Lopez, Khris Middleton (26), Jrue Holiday (25) and Bobby Portis (22). Middleton also had 13 rebounds and eight assists. Holiday had 13 assists and six rebounds.

Game 6 is Saturday in Atlanta, with the winner of the series facing the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. Each team was missing its biggest star as Antetokounmpo dealt with a hyperextended left knee and Atlanta’s Trae Young sat out a second consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his right foot.

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Young got hurt when he accidentally stepped on an official’s foot along the sideline in Milwaukee’s 113-102 Game 3 victory. 

Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly after trying to block Clint Capela’s dunk attempt in Atlanta’s 110-88 Game 4 triumph.

Just as the Hawks’ role players stepped up with Young sidelined in Game 4, Antetokounmpo’s teammates came through Thursday to help the Bucks overcome the loss of their two-time MVP.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 28 points. Atlanta also got 19 points each from John Collins and Danilo Gallinari, and 17 from Lou Williams.

Portis took Antetokounmpo’s spot in the starting lineup and had the Fiserv Forum fans chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” on multiple occasions, continuing something that started during Milwaukee’s Game 2 blowout victory. Portis’ 22 points were a playoff career high.

The Bucks never trailed and led by as many as 20 in the first quarter, making most of their shots and getting second-chance opportunities on their rare misses. The game was nearly eight minutes old by the time Cam Reddish got Atlanta’s first defensive rebound.

Milwaukee led 36-22 after a first quarter in which the Bucks outscored the Hawks 28-8 in the paint. Bogdanovic’s 13 first-half points helped the Hawks close the gap to 65-56 at the break.

The Bucks needed that edge in the paint because they again couldn’t connect from range, continuing a problem that has hounded them the entire postseason. After making their first two 3-point shots, they missed their next 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Atlanta cut the lead to 65-59 when Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer to open the third-quarter scoring, but that’s as close as the Hawks would get in the second half. This marked the second consecutive game in this series without any lead changes. The Hawks never trailed in Game 4.

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Phoenix Suns take 3-1 series lead, inspired to get Chris Paul first trip to NBA Finals

Just one victory away from the NBA Finals, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul said he will not allow himself to consider quite yet what it will be like to compete on basketball’s biggest stage for the first time in his 16-year career.

“Not until the job is done. Not until the job is done,” Paul said after the Suns’ gritty 84-80 win over the LA Clippers on Saturday to go up 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. “We can talk about all that then, but right now, it’s just laser focus.

“Three wins don’t win the series, so right now, we did what we came here to do. We wanted to get one of these, and now we got to stay focused and be ready to go back to our crowd.”

Paul, of course, has been here before. In 2018, his Houston Rockets were up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals versus the Golden State Warriors, before the defending champions stormed back to win the final two games, with Paul hobbled by a hamstring injury.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Paul said, looking back on the disappointment from three years ago. “Don’t dwell on things, you always remember, but I’m here now, excited about this opportunity, and all I can worry about right now is Game 5.”

Paul guided Phoenix to its victory in Game 4, playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, when he scored seven of his 18 points and dished out two of his seven assists, despite struggling to shoot the ball.

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Paul was 1-for-7 from the field in the fourth — and just 6-for-22 for the game — though he did go 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the closing period.

“I was mad I missed [midrange shots] that could have put us up by five or seven, but it’s so crazy when I went to the free throw line I thought about my son,” Paul, 36, said of his trip to the stripe with 3.9 seconds remaining, and the Suns up by two, when he split the pair of attempts. “I talk to my son all the time about the importance of shooting free throws.

“I seriously went to the free throw line and I was like, ‘How the hell I’m going to tell him to stay poised if I don’t do it my damn self?'”

It would appear Paul’s son is learning from his dad just fine, judging by how Paul’s younger teammates rave about the example he is setting for them.

Deandre Ayton, who lived up to his “DominAyton” nickname with 19 points, 22 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in Game 4, exuded praise for the man who is 14 years his senior.

“I love CP, man,” said Ayton, 22. “That’s really the only teammate that really pushed me. Like big-bro-type push.

“I think he was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day.”

Ayton said he would like to repay Paul’s investment in him by helping Phoenix to at least one more win this postseason so Paul can finally get a taste of the Finals.

“I’m going to try my best,” Ayton said. “I’m going to try my best. … I know how it is as an older player and being in the league and stuff like that. So, when you have an opportunity like this, you can’t take it for granted. And he let us know. He let us know, and we know the task at hand.”

Devin Booker, who ditched the face mask protecting his broken nose to score a team-high 25 points before fouling out, said that he grew up watching Paul.

“I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and I’ve learned so much from him this year, and I always talk about off the court how he carries himself, and he’s just a true professional at every level at all times,” Booker, 24, said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a man, not even as a basketball player, just understanding how bad he wants this and how much time he’s put into it … 16 years, that’s a long time.

“We know how bad he wants it. … We definitely have his back.”

Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached Paul in the playoffs when they were both with New Orleans a decade ago, gave him a compliment of the highest order when asked how he feels about Paul controlling the action down the stretch.

“He’s not afraid of those moments,” Williams said. “It’s all about winning for Chris.” One more win. One more win and Paul will experience winning in a way he never has before.

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Booker has first triple-double, Suns beat Clippers 120-114

Devin Booker’s first exposure to playoff basketball continues to be a revelation.

Not necessarily for him, but for the rest of the NBA.

Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double and the Phoenix Suns overcame Chris Paul’s absence to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-114 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s acting surprised at this point,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said about Booker’s big day. “This is his first time on this stage but he’s capable. He’s more than capable. He’re more than ready. He prepares like no other.”

Paul sat out because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his third consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.

Tied at 93 to start the fourth, the Suns went on a 12-2 run and pulled ahead 105-95 on Cam Johnson’s dunk with 8:08 left. The Clippers wouldn’t go away, though, cutting a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to 116-114 when Terance Mann hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left.

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But that’s where the rally stopped for Los Angeles.

“I have no excuse,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought we played hard and competed. A little credit — they were making shots and we didn’t. But I loved our fight. I loved what I saw.”

Booker scored on a dunk on the next possession to seal Phoenix’s eighth straight triumph, getting a free lane to the basket on the blown defensive coverage.

The sixth-year guard was a surprising omission from the All-NBA teams released a few days ago but he certainly looked the part on Sunday.

He wasn’t worried about where this game ranks among his best performances.

Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Booker continues to cement his superstar status and was productive and efficient in one of the best games of his career. He shot 15 of 29 from the field, carving apart a defense that had to play just 36 hours after closing out the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

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