Coming into the second-round series between the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets, one of the major talking points was the health of Chris Paul.
Struggling throughout the series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a right shoulder injury, Paul delivered in a big way to help Phoenix take a 1-0 lead of Denver.
FInishing with 21 points, six rebounds and 11 assists, it was vintage Paul in the fourth quarter. Struggling with his shot to that point, Paul scored 12 points in the fourth, scoring or assisting on 20 of the Suns' 34 points overall.
"Chris has been in those moments so many times. I don't think not making shots is going to rattle him, I think he's more concerned with managing the game than he is his shooting percentage," head coach Monty Williams responded when asked about his early shooting struggles.
"In those moments I thought we did a good job of spacing so he had room to operate and then he made some big shots. That's who he is, whether it's facilitating to guys or being able to knock down a shot."
Paul became the first player 36 years or older to finish a playoff game with 20/5/10 since 1965.
Chris Paul tonight:- StatMuse (@statmuse) June 8, 2021
He is the first player aged 36 years or older with a 20/5/10 playoff game since 1965. pic.twitter.com/PSR0TsAxdy
"I was just trying to be aggressive, trying to stay aggressive. I missed a lot of shots early, especially at the start of the third quarter. Just trying to be more assertive," Paul told reporters.
As for his shoulder, it certainly looked fine late in the game after appearing to suffer some pain on a knock during the first quarter.
"It definitely loosens up. The only way you get to see how it is is in a game. It was good, it was fun to be out there and get involved. That last series was tough but I'm glad to be back helping the team."
It's just the latest in an entire season of clutch fourth-quarter moments for Paul, whose poise and calmness have been invaluable in big moments for the young Suns roster.
"His ability to read the game, clock management, shot-making, he's done it for a long time," Williams said.
"Right now he's probably critiquing himself and picking some things he could do a lot better. He makes a lot of our stuff look better because he's been in these situations and understands the moment. He and I communicate a ton and I trust the things he sees on the floor so from a leadership standpoint, not only is he able to do the things we ask him, he's also teaching some of our younger players how to manage the game and how to play in certain moments."
For Paul, he's just having fun, and why shouldn't he? The Suns lead the Western Conference semifinals 1-0.
"It's fun to be on a team where it's like wrestling, you tag in. You go out the game and there's no drop off, there's just another unit that's keeping pressure on you. That's the benefits of having the team that we have. When I come out it's cool, these guys are nice to."
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.