Chris Paul has aged. But he has not aged out of being a high-impact player.
The Phoenix Suns did not have their starting point guard available for the first time this season against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. Paul left Monday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers after 14 minutes played due to heel soreness and was ruled out several hours before his team’s game at Minnesota, who the Suns beat 116-107 Nov. 1.
Without him, Phoenix inserted backup point guard Cameron Payne into the starting lineup for the first time this season. Payne and the Suns went 11-2 when he was a starter last year, but a new bench unit and first-time occurrence made things somewhat uncertain.
With Paul – who ranked fourth in the NBA at 9.4 assists per game – out, the Suns still had an incredible team effort with 32 assists on 47 made shots on 97 attempts (48.5 percent) in their 129-117 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Phoenix scored 30 points in three of four quarters against the Timberwolves, who entered the game having lost four of their last five contests. The Suns went on a 28-11 run over the last 7:10 of the first quarter to take a 39-25 lead and did not look back.
Phoenix’s lead fell to single digits only four times after that point and they ballooned it to as much as 27 points with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
A 35-25 fourth quarter from Minnesota cut the Suns’ advantage to as few as 11 points in the period, but the Suns closed out a strong victory.
Here were the final statistics for each team.
The Suns ranked third in team assists per made field goals entering Wednesday’s game at 67.3 percent, according to TeamRankings. Phoenix’s 68.0 percentage was a significant stat without Paul, who has facilitated the Suns’ offense at a high level over the last three seasons.
Starting forward Mikal Bridges had 18 first-half points and finished with 31 points — his second regular-season game with 30-plus points in his five-game career — with nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. Starting shooting guard Devin Booker had 22 second-half points and finished with 32 points (on 12-of-23 shooting and 5-of-7 from 3-point range), 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Booker became the third-youngest player to reach 1,000 made 3-pointers for his career in the win.
You can look at how the game unfolded below.
Fourth Quarter — Timberwolves 35, Suns 25 (129-117 Phoenix wins)
Minnesota had its best quarter of the game but the Suns still closed without their lead following below double digits. Phoenix’s lead fell as few as 123-112 with 1:59 remaining, but Payne made a 3-pointer with 59.2 seconds left to bury the Timberwolves entirely and give the Suns a 126-112 advantage.
Out here taking care of business.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
@mikal_bridges @Dami0nLee pic.twitter.com/02v2sybhYU
SUNS WIN! pic.twitter.com/jNrjkA0kDu— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
Third Quarter – Suns 35, Timberwolves 31 (104-82 after three quarters)
The Suns impressively scored 30 points for the third straight quarter and built a lead as large as 25 in the period.
An 11-2 run over a 3:20 span gave Phoenix a 91-66 lead with 4:34 left in the quarter. Booker had 16 points in the period and was incredibly efficient by the start of the fourth quarter. He led all players with a plus-29 rating with the Suns leading 109-92 with 9:32 left to go in the game.
Second Quarter – Suns 30, Timberwolves 26 (69-51 at halftime)
Phoenix built on its impressive first quarter with a solid close to the second against Minnesota.
The Suns only let a double-digit deficit fall four times in the period, which it closed on a 16-7 run.
At halftime, the Suns had shot 26-of-48 (54.2 percent) as a team and 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) from 3-point range.
Bridges had five points in the quarter and led all scorers with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (2-of-3 from 3-point range). He also had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals and was the only Sun since at least 1996 to record those totals in a half, according to Stathead.
Bringin' the heat to Minny with all these three's pic.twitter.com/cv7c2HeRRn— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
@mikal_bridges is the only Sun since at least 1996 to record these totals in these categories in a half:— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
(via @Stathead) pic.twitter.com/FNW35h2wem
November 10, 2022
First Quarter – Suns 39, Timberwolves 25
With Paul out due to right heel soreness, Suns backup point guard Cameron Payne moved to the starting lineup for the for the first time this season.
Minnesota went on an early 6-2 run to take a 14-11 lead with 7:10 left in the first quarter, but it was all Suns from then on. Phoenix went on a 25-14 spurt to close the quarter and starting forward Mikal Bridges was red hot with 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting.
The Suns had four 3-pointers as a team in the quarter and 10 assists as a team. Booker also became the third-youngest player in NBA history to reach 1,000 made 3-pointers.
1K from D33P!— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
Book becomes the 3rd-youngest player in NBA history to score 1,000 3-pointers (Bradley Beal, D’Angelo Russell). pic.twitter.com/5TkuuQByU3
Let 'em know, @landryshamet pic.twitter.com/YUQCJIq7QV— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
Whatever it takes— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 10, 2022
@campayne ➡️ @mikal_bridges pic.twitter.com/kvhCx6y5Js
Dario Saric hangs and finishes over Karl-Anthony Towns. Good job from Saric not to lose his body control against Towns, who is listed 23 pounds heavier than him #Suns pic.twitter.com/9k7ijXdD5O— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) November 10, 2022