Before his team played its fourth game of its first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon, Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul was told by his coach, Monty Williams, that he would be benched while continuing to recover from a right shoulder contusion he suffered in Game 1.
Paul made his response very clear.
“I told him, ‘Hell nah,’” Paul told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “‘Just give me a couple minutes, see what I can do.’”
Paul responded with his best individual game of the series so far, leading the Suns with 18 points and nine assists along with three rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes during their 100-92 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles.
With their win, the Suns have tied their series against the Lakers at two games apiece before a crucial Game 5 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. MT at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Before Sunday’s contest, Williams said he had about a 20-minute conversation with Paul and general manager James Jones about Paul’s status for the game. Paul said he had not touched a basketball after playing just 27 minutes in the Suns’ 109-95 Game 3 loss on Thursday, though he did not appear to consider sitting out for a crucial Game 4.
“It was an emotional conversation,” Williams said. “To have to sit out in a game like this, you can imagine how we both felt and it was something that I had been thinking about for the past 48 hours and it came down to him looking me in the eyes and saying, ‘Just trust me on this one, coach. If I don’t look the way you want me to, then take me out.’”
It appeared to be the right decision. Paul looked much more like his normal self throughout Sunday’s game, helping the Suns build as large as 18 points in the second half. They benefited greatly from a 31-12 run from three minutes left in the second quarter to 3:34 left in the third, building a 15-point advantage at the time that the Lakers never recovered from.
Here’s more what Paul had to say about his performance and how his shoulder felt after the Suns’ Game 4 victory.
On what it means for the Suns to regain home court advantage with their win:
“It means a lot, showed a lot of fight. Showed a lot of fight, man. Guys on both sides, banged up, it’s the playoffs, that’s what it’s going to look like. But we showed a lot of fight and got this win.”
On how his shoulder feels and what he had to do to get back on the floor:
“Man, it’s been a lot. It’s been a lot going on. Met with [Williams] before the game, he told me he was going to sit me. He told me he was going to sit me tonight and I told him, ‘Hell nah. Just give me a couple minutes, see what I can do.’ God is good. I come from a praying family, my momma and my daddy all day long, praying for me. And it’s just a game, people got a lot of tougher things going on but I love to play this game. So just to get out there and be able to do this with my team, it’s 2-2, still got a lot of work to do.”
On how he wants to prepare his team for Game 5:
“Ain’t no next few days, it’s one day. It’s one day, it’s, ‘Get your rest, get your recovery. Game 5 is going to be a dog fight.’” We going back home, Phoenix, we’re going to need you.”
On his pregame conversation with Williams and Jones:
“Just understand that it was an afternoon game, and I have a couple more days of rest. That’s the only way they say I can treat this going on, is to by rest it. I’m just glad that me and coach have the relationship where we can have that conversation. We talked about it, and told the guys, ‘I don’t know if it’ll be two minutes, I don’t know if it’ll be 32 minutes. But I feel like I got to try to give you what I got.’”
On yelling ‘I’m back!’ after hitting a mid range jumper in the third quarter:
“I don’t know if I yelled it or (Suns backup shooting guard) Langston Galloway yelled it, but I just, I mean it felt good man. You work all summer, all season to get here and to not be able to get your team what you want to give them, and to have them out there so they’re guarding you knowing you’re somewhat less than, it was good. Good feeling to just be out there and compete.”
If he was surprised by the way his body responded today and how much he appreciated his teammates’ support once he got in a rhythm:
“I appreciate it, I appreciate it. I mean, somewhat surprised. I hadn’t touched a basketball or anything since the last game. Like I said, I got to rest it. So the first time shooting was a little bit right before the game and then in the game. So our team is really a team. (Suns starting forward) Mikal Bridges said it after the game, ‘We didn’t have guys that missed a lot of games this season, so we’re used to playing a certain way.’ So if I’m not out there able to me, than our team looks totally different. So I was happy that I could help them.”
If he had a moment where he felt like the Suns were going to take control of the game:
“Yeah, they made a little run there (in the second quarter) and I was on the court. And I’m thinking to myself, I’m never doubting myself, but I’m like, ‘Man, it’s on me. It’s on me.’ I’m out here, and I know what you’re talking about, coach subbed (Suns starting shooting guard and forward) [Devin Booker] and Jae (Crowder) and we made a few shots and I was like, ‘OK, OK we’re here.’” And then from there on, we started getting stops. Once I got a couple shots to fall and we started playing with pace, we felt like we had it.”
If he considered sitting Sunday’s game and if his shoulder progressively improved throughout the game:
“I don’t know. It was a lot of conversation before the game after I talked to coach and I said, ‘Give me a minute.’ Went and called my brother and my team, before I talked about it, and I was like, ‘Look man,’ went and talked to Book, talked to Jae and I told them, I said, ‘I don’t know how long it’s going to be.’ But I told them, I said, ‘If y’all feel like I’m out here looking like some trash, just tell me, and I’ll get out.’” So I at least had to, like I said, see what I could do.”
On how he’s feeling physically after the game:
“I’m good, I’m good.”
On what it’s like facing Los Angeles Lakers’ forward and close friend LeBron James in the postseason for the first time:
“It’s crazy, we family. All these years of playing against each other, basically cheering each other on throughout the playoffs. Like he was in the East, I was in the West, talking about the playoff games and stuff all the time, it’s different competing against each other. But probably nobody knows my game better than him, and same way with me knowing him. So it’s fun to compete against each other.”