Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks: What's happening with Chris Paul?

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Chris Paul was able to joke about committing seven turnovers on his 37th birthday in Friday's Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinals series.

Two days later, his mind was clearly fixated on fans harassing his family when discussing Sunday's Game 4 in Dallas where he fouled out in just 23 minutes and one second of play.

“It was a blur,” a visibly bothered Paul said after scoring just five points on 2-of-4 shooting in Game 4.

The Mavericks released a second statement Monday as they've concluded their investigation of the incidents.

"American Airlines Center and Dallas Mavericks security and executives have concluded the investigation into the incident involving the Paul family. Two unruly fans attempted to give unwanted hugs and have conversations with members of the Paul family on the public concourse of American Airlines Center. AAC security responded immediately once notified by the family and the fans were swiftly ejected from the game. The fans involved in the incident will not be allowed to return to the arena until 2023."

On the court, Paul has gone from scoring 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2’s win to give the Phoenix Suns a 2-0 series lead to having two of the worst performances in his NBA career that ended in defeats.

Between turnovers, fouls and the Suns being out of rhythm offensively to Dallas playing physical on both ends with an objective to wear him down, Paul is facing his share of obstacles in this series.

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May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams takes out guard Chris Paul (3) due to foul trouble against the Dallas Mavericks during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams takes out guard Chris Paul (3) due to foul trouble against the Dallas Mavericks during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.

'Check on him as a man, a brother'

Now Phoenix enters Game 5 Tuesday with its floor general having more on his mind than the game, but also know Paul has shown the ability to bounce back from bad performances with much better ones.

“The one thing that people forget about with guys like Chris is they need to be checked on,” Suns coach Monty Williams said after Monday’s practice.

“And I called him last night just to check on him as a man, a brother. It was Mother’s Day and your parents and your wife at game and they get harassed. And then you have a tough game. I wasn’t even concerned with the game as much as I was concerned with just him as a man having dealt with that."

Williams waited until Monday to talk basketball with Paul and how the top-seeded Suns can regain control of the series against the fourth-seeded Mavericks.

“We got back to the conversation of how do we get back to being solid and playing Suns basketball consistently,” Williams said.

Having Paul play better is one sure way for Phoenix to return to the form it displayed in Phoenix in Game 1 and Game 2.

When breaking down Paul’s play in Dallas, the two glaring issues were turnovers in Game 3 and fouls in Game 3 and Game 4.

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May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) controls the ball in the Dallas Mavericks zone during the second quarter during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) controls the ball in the Dallas Mavericks zone during the second quarter during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.

Turnovers, fouls and more

He committed all seven of his turnovers in the first half of Game 3 and ended that Friday night with four fouls.

Two days later, Paul picked up four fouls in the first half of Game 4 with the final one coming with 1.1 seconds left in the second quarter.

Williams said he shouldn’t have put Paul back on the floor with three fouls with 45.7 seconds left. He’s reinserted Paul back into games late in the first half to get a good possession or two before the break.

For the most part, the move had led to a good shot at the worst, but the move backfired this time. Paul later fouled early in the fourth as he only played four minutes in the second half of Game 4.

Paul picked up his fourth foul going after his own miss.

If Paul makes it, Phoenix goes into the half down eight, but they instead trailed by 12 as Luka Doncic hit both free throws after the midair collision between the two.

“I saw he was going for the rebound,” Doncic said. “I was surprised and then he said to me, ‘Did I push you that hard?’ I said, ‘No, not that hard, but it was a smart play.’ He said, ‘I know.’”

Doncic and Paul have become an interesting dynamic in this series.

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May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.

'One of the best'

The Mavs All-Star has a ton of respect for Paul.

“He’s one of the best point guards this league has ever had,” Doncic said.

But with all due respect, the 6-7 Doncic is seven inches taller and 55 pounds heavier than Paul based on their height/weight measurements on the team rosters.

So, when Paul is guarding Doncic, he’s having to take on the brunt of that size differential.

Paul has drawn fouls on Doncic at times, but Doncic has taken advantage of the situation and drawn fouls on Paul, too.

This battle could be taking its toll on Paul’s energy.

Not having more than a day’s rest between games could be a problem for Paul, too.

The Suns and Mavs have played every other day and will remain on that schedule through Game 6 in Dallas.

There are two days between Thursday’s Game 6 and Sunday’s Game 7, if necessary.

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May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd watches as Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) waits to check back into the action during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd watches as Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) waits to check back into the action during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.

Wear him down

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd already had a plan to wear Paul down over the course of the series.

“It doesn’t happen in a game,” Kidd said before Friday’s Game 3. “It’s a series where you have to take the bigger approach. He understands the game at a very, very high level. Understands how to get off the ball, understands how to rest in the game. So it’s hard. So when you see him in the fourth quarter, he’s at a different level and we have to match that energy that he has. He’s the best at dictating the game.”

The Mavs made sure Paul had trouble doing that in Games 3 and 4 in multiple ways.

First, they’ve increased the game tempo to have the Suns rushing to find shots.

So, Paul doesn’t have as much time to find the open man. He’s averaging just 5.5 assists in this series against the Mavs after racking up 11.3 in the first round and a league-best 10.8 in the regular season.

“As we get sped up with the flow of the game, you start to tend to shoot the first look,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said.

Two, Jalen Brunson and Doncic have each drawn fouls on Paul when the opportunity has presented itself.

“He was in foul trouble and we were trying to get after him,” Doncic said after Game 4. “If you don’t have CP out there, it’s for sure tougher on the team.”

Brunson is playing with more confidence after struggling in Games 1 and 2 while Doncic is enjoying the competition between himself and Paul.

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May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) guards Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the second quarter during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) guards Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the second quarter during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.

Applying the pressure

Paul sometimes zones up in the back, a point Pelicans head coach Willie Green made early in the season when talking about facing his close friend.

Green’s goal was to make Paul work on defense to help wear him down, so he won’t be so fresh in the fourth quarter to pick apart the opponent scoring and passing.

That strategy, along with having rookies Hebert Jones and Jose Alvarado play full court pressure defense on Paul worked to an extent, but the Suns won the series with Paul having a huge Game 6 closeout performance of 33 point on a perfect 14-of-14 shooting.

Reggie Bullock has taken on that primary role for Dallas. He’s not as pesky as Alvarado or as long or athletic as Jones, but he’s a seasoned veteran who understands how to use his body and angles.

When Paul is pressured, the Suns tend to have someone else bring the ball up. By doing that, Paul doesn’t usually get it back until later in the shot clock.

Although the Suns trust others to initiate the offense, Devin Booker and Cameron Payne are the only two outside of Paul who can do that for more than one or two consecutive possessions.

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May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) talks to his teammates after fouling out of the game against the Dallas Mavericks during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
May 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) talks to his teammates after fouling out of the game against the Dallas Mavericks during game four of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.

'We've got to bounce back'

Whenever that happens, Paul can still impact the offense, but not in the way of controlling it with the ball. Dallas will live with Paul playing off the ball more than with it.

Then there’s always the injury element that comes into play when it comes to Paul.

Injury prone, Paul has his two middle fingers wrapped on his left hand that led to speculation that he was hurt.

That all went away after his historic night of perfection in New Orleans where he made more shots without a miss than anyone ever in a playoff game to close out the Pelicans.

He's always locked into the game, but frustration with how the game is unfolding can lead to Paul venting with the officiating and having his mind on the whistle.

So, Paul’s dip in play can be attributed to several things, but all will be forgotten if he comes through in this series starting with Tuesday’s Game 5 in Phoenix.

“We’ve got to bounce back,” Paul said.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks: What's happening with Chris Paul?