Rejuvenated Paul leads Suns over Nuggets 122-105 in Game 1

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Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) passes as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) defends during the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, June 7, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – In the opening minutes of Monday night's game, Chris Paul was bumped on his ailing right shoulder and grimaced for a second. His movements were a little tentative, his shots didn't look quite right.

Then — seemingly almost out of nowhere — the “Point God” was back.

One mid-range jumper fell and then another. A short floater found the net and then a 3-pointer splashed home as the crowd roared. The 11-time All-Star looked like his usual self, the rest of the Suns followed suit and Phoenix rallied for a 122-105 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

“It was fun to get out there and be involved,” Paul said. “That last series – that was tough – but I’m glad to be back helping the team.”

Paul and his rejuvenated right shoulder finished with 21 points and 11 assists while Mikal Bridges added a team-high 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 8 from behind the arc.

The Suns trailed for most of the first half and 70-60 early in the third quarter but rallied to take the lead by late in the third. Devin Booker made a 3-pointer and Bridges added a driving layup for a 79-72 advantage.

They pushed the lead to 88-79 going into the fourth. Paul — who played with the hurt shooting shoulder through most of the first round matchup against the Lakers — made back-to-back mid-range jumpers to put the Suns up 94-79 with 10:25 left.

“We felt that energy,” Booker said. “We felt the passion. He just made plays.”