Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul was diagnosed with a right shoulder contusion after colliding with teammate Cameron Johnson with 9:25 left in the second quarter of his team’s 99-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday afternoon.
Paul was defending a transition layup from Lakers guard Talen Horton-Horton Tucker before forward LeBron James lept over Paul for a putback layup, forcing him to collide into the side of Johnson and fall to the floor.
“I was going up and I just remember I felt or heard a crack or whatever,” Paul said.
Play was stopped as Paul remained on the ground while holding his shoulder in great apparent pain. He was consoled by players on both teams, including James, one of his closest friends, as he was helped off the floor and into the Suns locker room.
Players from both teams gathered around Chris Paul as he was helped off the floor with a towel over his head.— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) May 23, 2021
Close friend LeBron James appeared to offer words of encouragement. #Suns pic.twitter.com/wlMTuz8jeP
The Lakers outscored the Suns, who were leading 38-29 at the time of Paul’s injury, 7-6 over nearly the next four minutes before Paul returned to the floor. He was observed wearing a sleeved undershirt for the remainder of the contest.
Paul finished the game with seven points, eight assists and four rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting but did not appear to be his normal self after the injury. He struggled to handle the basketball with his right hand, leading to uncharacteristic turnovers and challenges while releasing his jump shot.
You can tell Chris Paul is struggling mightily but somehow gets this to go. Fantastic heart from him. pic.twitter.com/5qj1n4ac2H— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) May 23, 2021
After the game, Suns coach Monty Williams said his team will soon have a “more official” update on Paul’s health. Paul said he will “absolutely” be ready for Game 2 on Tuesday and that he will continue to monitor his shoulder until then.
Paul has been plagued by injuries during his postseason career. Recently, he suffered a hamstring injury during the Houston Rockets’ Game 5 win over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals in 2018. The Rockets led the series 3-2 at the time but Golden State won the next two contests to advance to the NBA Finals without Paul available.
But on Sunday, Paul indicated he was fine to continue playing, something that motivated his teammates throughout the game.
“The team responded, we huddled up and Chris has been a leader for us throughout this whole season and a lot of us rely on him at every point of the game,” Suns starting guard Devin Booker said. “So to see him down like that in pain, it’s obviously tough but we know he’s a fighter and we have a team full of fighters.”
Here’s a story with more on Paul’s postseason injury history.