Chris Paul has shrugged off a shoulder injury to drive the Phoenix Suns to a 100-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers which levelled their NBA play-offs first-round series.
The home loss was not the worst news for the Lakers, after All-Star big man Anthony Davis sustained a groin injury late in the second quarter and did not return to the game for the defending champions.
Suns coach Monty Williams initially planned to sit Paul for the game but the 36-year-old proved he can still contribute despite being limited physically, netting 18 points and dishing out nine assists.
Devin Booker and Jae Crowder added 17 points apiece while centre Deandre Ayton had 14 points and 17 rebounds for the second seeds in the west.
Davis’ absence from the second half helped the Suns reclaim home-court advantage in the series with Game 5 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Paul was grateful Williams was receptive to his fervent desire to play. He also assured his teammates that he would only persevere if he could help.
“I told them, ‘I don’t know how long it’s going to be, but if you all feel like I’m out here looking like some trash, just tell me and I’ll get out’,” the 11-time All-Star said.
Without Davis, the Lakers can’t play the certain way they want to – and not even LeBron James could save them this time.
Davis scored six points on 2-for-9 shooting in the first half, before falling awkwardly and grabbing his leg after a lay-up attempt defended by Crowder.
“I thought he was labouring a little bit, even before the groin injury,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of Davis, who missed 30 games in the regular season and was doubtful for Sunday’s game due to knee soreness.
James had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who fell too far behind in the third quarter to mount a serious late comeback.
Meanwhile, Trae Young led the way for Atlanta, as usual, but he had plenty of help as the Hawks found their groove in the second half to cruise past the New York Knicks 113-96.
The hosts unleashed a dazzling array of weapons to take control of their first-round series 3-1 to the delight of the 16,458 fans in attendance in Atlanta.
Young scored 27 points, John Collins added 22 despite a smack to the lip and the Hawks frustrated the league’s most improved player award winner Julius Randle and the Knicks once again.
Randle, who had his highest-scoring game of the series with 23 points, was serenaded again by chants of “Overrated! Overrated! Overrated!” every time he put a shot up.
The Hawks will look to wrap up their first play-off series victory since 2016 when they travel to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday night.