PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns took Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets and with the health of point guard Chris Paul trending upward, the Suns are in an optimum position to protect home court Wednesday.
Paul was about 80% healthy with that right shoulder contusion in the opening round series versus the Los Angeles Lakers, but now Paul is trending in the 90% region, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Paul attributed his health to the prayers he’s been receiving from family and to the hands of the Suns medical staff.
Phoenix’s front office continues to rave about how Paul fought through the injury and kept the confidence of this young team sky-high.
And for his labor, the future Hall-of-Famer had his best game of these playoffs on Monday, producing 21 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, and only one turnover in 35 minutes of action to lead a 122-105 victory.
Paul has received work around the clock ever since he injured his shoulder in Game 1 of the first round.
Suns head coach Monty Williams said he could tell Paul has been feeling better because the star has been shooting more threes in practice over the last few days.
Williams clarified that he didn’t know if Paul was unable to shoot from long distance before or if he was just being cautious.
“We’re encouraged by his progress,” Williams told Yahoo Sports. “When he’s healthy, we’re a different team.”
The latest injury updates on Will Barton, Jamal Murray
Meanwhile, the Nuggets are holding out hope that Will Barton — the team’s starting two-guard — can make his return as early as tonight from a right hamstring injury that’s kept him out since April 23.
“I’m definitely improving,” Barton told Yahoo Sports. “I like the progress and I’m just going to make sure I’m ready before stepping out there. But it feels like I’m close.”
Jamal Murray is seen before games getting shots up without placing weight on that left leg where he suffered an ACL tear on his knee.
The Nuggets haven’t given a definitive timetable on a return, choosing to rule him out indefinitely. But sources say the earliest they expect their point guard to return would be in February 2022 for an injury of that magnitude.
Denver is facing an environment in Phoenix that they haven’t experienced all season long: 16,000 rowdy fans. In their previous series, Portland was able to increase its capacity to 10,000 by the end of the series.
Coach Michael Malone has stated that the Nuggets are the most persevering team in the league for all the obstacles they’ve overcome this year.
Paul getting healthy at the right time is one more giant obstacle in their way.
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