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Chris Paul returned after a 15-game hiatus due to a fractured thumb as the Suns clinched the number one seed overall in the playoffs with a 140-130 win over the Denver Nuggets.
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Initial reports had Paul out for between 6-8 weeks – or just before the playoffs – but the veteran point guard came back sooner than expected, missing just five weeks.
With the victory over the Nuggets, the Suns clinched not just their 60th win of the season, but homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
Suns' coach Monty Williams said prior NBA Collectibles to the game he had a number in mind in regard to how many minutes he wanted Paul to play in his return "but you can't cookie- stephen curry jersey mens medium cut it. I have to watch him, especially when there's a break in the action.
"There are certain times with an athlete you've got warriors city edition jersey 2022 steph curry to know if a guy is laboring. He knows and he'll tell me. But it's something we've got to monitor. You won't see him close to his normal 28-32 (minutes). With the games we have left we've got to do our best to get him where he needs to be."
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How did Chris Paul perform in his return?
As much as coach Williams said we wouldn't see CP3 close to his normal minutes, it's easier said than done trying to keep a competitive guy like Paul out of a game like on Thursday night.
Just as his good friend Dwyane Wade predicted on TV during the week, Paul didn't need any time to readjust to NBA game speed after his layoff. In fact, he looked like he hadn't missed a beat.
He was his usual self, orchestrating the Suns' offense with aplomb.
Paul finished the game with a double-double of 17 points (6-of-10 from the field), 13 assists and four rebounds.
Post-game he spoke about the Suns' 60-win season.
"I think our team understands the regular season is the regular season, but it's special, man," he said.
Monty Williams even praised Paul and teammate Devin Booker for upping the defensive intensity in the second half.
What does Paul's return mean for the Suns?
Phoenix has played better than expected without their 12-time All-Star. The Suns had an 11-4 record without Paul, including their six-game winning streak leading into Thursday's game.
During Paul's absence, the Suns had an offensive rating of 119.2 (6th best in LaMarcus Aldridge the NBA), a defensive rating of 109.5 (2nd), and net rating of 9.8 (3rd) during that time frame.
It speaks stephen curry jersey bgs to Phoenix's roster depth and quality of coaching by Monty Williams that they managed to solidify, and actually increase, their standing in the West without Paul, and for the past 11 games, without Cam Johnson either.
Two of the biggest reasons why the Suns have managed to keep their position atop the conference have been Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
Against the Nuggets Booker finished with 49 points and 10 rebounds, which continued the g stephen curry jersey nike classic ood form he's had since Paul went out. In the 11 games he's played without Paul this season Booker is averaging 28.2 points, seven rebounds, 4.6 assists while shooting 52 percent from the field.
The Suns have an 8-3 record in those games.
Booker has been playing at an MVP level, and probably should be considered more seriously for the award at season's en 2020-21 NBA City Jerseys d.
Earlier in the season when Ayton was out of the lineup with injury, it was guys like Bismack Biyombo and JaVale McGee who stepped up in his absence. Now that the big man is back, he is thriving.
In his past 15 games, warriors jersey nba Ayton has put up numbers of 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds on 67.2 per NBA Latin Nights Gear cent shooting, capped off by Wednesday night's career-high NBA Polo Shirts of 35 points and 14 rebounds against the Timberwolves.
It's been a complete team effort by the Suns, a real next-man-up type energy.
So far it's been their depth, and the play of Booker and Ayton that has propped them, now when you add in a rested and healthy Chris Paul, the title is Phoenix's to lose.