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NBA

Chris Paul after Suns Game 1 win: ‘The Pelicans were inviting me to shoot!’

Veteran point guard Chris Paul scored 19 points in the final quarter to lead the Phoenix Suns to victory in their playoff opener on Sunday.

Update:
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 17: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns high fives fans as he walks off the court following game one of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs against the New Orleans Pelicans at Footprint Center on April 17, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 110-109. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP
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Christian PetersenAFP

Chris Paul revealed he was spurred on by the New Orleans Pelicans’ defensive strategy during the Phoenix Suns’ 110-99 Game 1 win on Sunday.

The 36-year-old, who turns 37 next month, became the oldest player in NBA history to put up 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game, including 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter.

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns
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Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns Christian PetersenAFP

After the Pelicans rallied back from a 23-point deficit to make it a two-possession game, Paul took advantage of multiple instances where they went under on-ball screens against him.

Following the game, the 12-time All-Star said he wanted to make former team-mate and now Pelicans coach Willie Green pay for his strategy.

Inviting me to shoot

“That’s like inviting me to shoot,” Paul said. “I know Willie, that’s my man. It’s all a part of the game.”

Paul, who only attempted 3.3 three-pointers per game in the playoffs last season and 3.1 this regular season, went four-of-six from beyond the arc, including three-of-four in the fourth quarter.

Team-mate Devin Booker said of Paul: “That man is a true competitor and a true winner.

Chris Paul is built for these moments

Devon Booker (Phoenix Suns)

“When he wants it that bad, you can see it in his demeanour and see it in his walk, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s built for these moments.”

Meanwhile, on defense, the Suns kept C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas to a combined 22-of-63 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots the ball during Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs against on April 17, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix
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Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots the ball during Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs against on April 17, 2022 at Footprint Center in PhoenixKate FreseGetty

“We were just connected,” Paul said. “We were making it tough on C.J., same thing with BI [Ingram] and closing out to their shooters. We were just on a string.

“I think a lot of times people think about our offense and how we move the ball and stuff, but our defense is what we really sort of hang our hats on.”