As the Phoenix Suns’ grip on their 23-point lead loosened, and the Pelicans stormed back to within eight points on Sunday night, Chris Paul quite simply did what he does best.
It was like clockwork. The state of the game early in the final period called upon him to take off his floor general hat, and replace it with that of a pressure point in the offense, coming through with an assertive scoring approach.
In his ever-present ability to apply time on task, CP3 came through in clutch yet again. In the fourth quarter, he amassed 19 points while shooting 7-8 from the field and 3-4 from downtown. He also added two assists and came away with a steal.
That point total tied as his second-most in the fourth quarter for his career—his second time reaching that mark with the Suns. The other occasion was during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals last year, when he punched his team’s ticket to the NBA Finals.
The only other time he scored more points in the fourth came during yet another closeout contest, when he eliminated the Utah Jazz during the 2018 NBA Playoffs while with the Houston Rockets to reach his first Western Conference Finals.
Paul now has five double-digit fourth quarter scoring displays as a Sun on the playoff stage under his belt, and 21 in total amassed over his career.
Spearheaded by Paul, the Suns prove time and time again, even in varying scenarios, that they can bank on out-executing opposing teams down the stretch—regardless of location and situation. That confidence, touch, and feel stem from the “Point God,” and remains a weapon they deploy whenever needed.
Last postseason, Paul finished second in field goal percentage for players attempting at least four shots during the fourth, as he averaged 6.8 points on 52.7 percent shooting. He also ranked third in three point percentage, shooting it from deep at a 42.6 percent clip.
Paul’s already made it clear that he’s up to the same old tricks in timeliness, effectiveness, and efficiency this year. He developed an in-depth understanding of how fragile both leads and winning can be, especially in the playoffs. Throughout his 17-year career, he’s compiled enough experiences to where there’s no such thing as surprises; he’s seen it all.
In that, Paul also developed the underrated dynamic in knowing his personnel and processing what the defense is trying to do to him. He then calmly counters those moves which serve as “checkmates” time and time again, as he executes unparalleled levels of tacticality. It’s as if he has all the answers to the test, and is just waiting to see exactly which questions the opposition poses to him on a possession by possession basis.
Having been on both sides of epic comebacks, and inexplicable meltdowns, Paul’s ability to both acknowledge and flip the switch is one of the most valuable entities to have in your favor come playoff time. It also represents one of the most entertaining dynamics within our game, and is now embedded in what we know “Phoenix Suns basketball” to be.
As I stated earlier this season, for his all-encompassing impact on the final period, Chris Paul is the league’s Mr. 4th Quarter. When games hang in the balance and the stakes reach their highest, nobody plays better.
Sunday night resembled just another reminder and time stamp in the illustrious career that he’s made out of coming up big in high leverage moments. More importantly though, it may serve as a loud prelude for what lies ahead for him and the Suns during this postseason.