DENVER (3TV/CBS 5) - When the Phoenix Suns needed buckets in the fourth quarter, Chris Paul delivered. He hit back-to-back 16-footers with 5 minutes left in the fourth to push the Suns' lead to 19 and that was enough for them to beat the Denver Nuggets 116-102 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals for a 3-0 series lead. Phoenix can go for the sweep in Game 4 on Sunday.
Paul had 27 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals, while Devin Booker had 28 in 40 minutes. Like Game 2, all five Suns starters were in double figures. Ayton had another double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds. The Suns have won six straight playoff games, which has tied a franchise record.
On the same night he got the MVP trophy, Nikola Jokic had a spectacular night, with 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists but got little help from the other Denver starters. Michael Porter Jr. had 15 points but on 5-13 shooting. Monte Morris helped off the bench with 21 points on 8-12 shooting.
The Suns kept up their offensive aggressiveness that they had in Game 2 by shooting 74% in the first quarter. Booker got off to another hot start in the first, scoring 11 points of 4-6 shooting, with Jae Crowder hitting two 3s. Paul capped off a 21-8 run with a three-pointer with 5:37 left in the quarter. Denver's Porter Jr. shot better, going 3-4 for eight points in the same frame, with Jokic adding seven but they were down by 10. Crowder finished the game with 14 points, including four three-pointers.
Denver chipped away at the lead in the second quarter, going on an 11-3 run, cutting the lead to 4 with 8:07 remaining. But then Torrey Craig hit a three followed by a layup to get the lead back to 9. A Booker jumper and a layup by Paul got the lead back to 13. But Denver fought back and were only down four at halftime, 59-55. Craig had five points.
Mikal Bridges provided a spark for the Suns in the third, and Phoenix withstood a push from Denver by matching bucket for bucket in the third. The Suns then went on a 11-2 run at the end of third and into the fourth to increase their lead to 20. But then the Nuggets responded with their own 7-0 run. But Paul had a couple of clutch shots and an assist to Crowder to keep the Suns in front by double digits. Bridges had 11 points.