Goodbye, Denver Nuggets.
Hello Western Conference finals.
The Phoenix Suns completed a conference semifinals sweep with Sunday’s 125-118 Game 4 victory against the Nuggets before 18,290 fans at Ball Arena.
Chris Paul once again took over in scoring a game-high 37 points in leading the second-seeded Suns into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010, which was the last time they made the playoffs.
“He did what Chris Paul does,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said. “Point guard, ‘Point God,’ whatever you want to call him, he controlled the game the entire game.”
Devin Booker went for 34 points as the second-seeded Suns set a franchise record for most consecutive playoff wins at seven.
Mikal Bridges added 14 while Deandre Ayton chipped in 12.
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul controls the ball against Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo.
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“It’s a feeling that’s kind of hard to put into words,” Booker said. “You always reflect after a game like this or you close a series out, you sit back and reflect a little bit and think about what we’ve been through as an organization and as a team. Even in the short time (Suns coach) Monty (Williams) has been here, just watching the culture develop and watching players getting better every day and people putting their hard hats on and come into work every day. It’s a beautiful sight to to see hard work pay off. ”
At the heart of Phoenix’s first series sweep since 2010 is Paul, the 36-year-old point guard who came to the Suns from Oklahoma City via trade before the season and has been instrumental in the team’s turnaround from a 19-win season in 2018-19.
The 16-year veteran scored 12 points in the third quarter on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting in keeping the Nuggets at bay. Making nine consecutive shots at one point, Paul scored 25 points in the second half on 10-for-12 shooting.
“He was darn near perfect all night long,” Williams said. “Scoring the ball, managing the clock.”
So it seemed only fitting Paul and Williams shared a special hug after the game as the two have been reunited this season after last being together 10 years ago in New Orleans and find themselves in the conference finals.
“It’s emotional,” Paul said. “Mont has been through things in his life that a lot of people don’t necessarily come back from.”
Williams lost his wife, Ingrid, in a car accident in 2016, and Paul, who was with the Los Angeles Clippers at the time, attended the funeral.
Now Paul has helped Williams advance further than he ever has as a coach in the postseason.
“Who he is as a person,” Paul continued. “Basketball aside, he means so much to me and my family. So to be on this journey with him and to see it paying off is nice. We’re a lot alike. We stay locked in. I don’t feel good until the buzzer sounds and Mont is the same way. So when the series is over and the game is over, it’s nice to share those moments.”
Before the final buzzer sounded, the Nuggets lost Nikola Jokic, who was ejected after drawing a flagrant 2 on a foul on Cameron Payne with 3:52 left in third.
The Suns went on a 13-5 run in building their largest lead of 16 late in the quarter after the ejection. Jokic closed out his NBA MVP season with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.
The Nuggets drew as close as four with 8:01 left in the game, but Phoenix, led by Paul, took control late to eliminate the third seed.
With Phoenix up six, Paul scored five quick points with the latter coming off a steal by Mikal Bridges on Will Barton to give Phoenix an 114-103 lead as Denver coach Michael Malone called a timeout with 2:56 left in the game.
“It’s a closeout game and a lot of emotions, a lot of guys who want it and he just did a good job of calming us down when we got sped up a little bit and I think he managed the game the entirety of the game,” Crowder said.
The Suns will play either the Utah Jazz or Los Angeles Clippers in the conference finals.
The top-seeded Jazz are up 2-1 after Saturday’s 132-106 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles. Game 4 is Monday at Staples Center.
The conference finals will begin June 20 if the Clippers-Jazz series ends in five or six games. If that best-of-seven series goes seven, the conference finals will start June 22.
“Everybody, at this point, is banged up and can use that type of recovery,” Williams said. “We’ve earned it and we want to take advantage it. So I’ll talk to the coaches and our medical staff and training staff and see the best way to approach these next few days, but right now, I’m not even thinking about that, man. I’m just happy about what these guys have accomplished and grateful to be a part of it and I hope our fans back in Phoenix and the state of Arizona are feeling the same way I do. This is a special time to be a Suns fan and everybody should enjoy it right now.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Suns sweep Nuggets, head to Western Conference final