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Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul ‘makes it look normal’ after notching 15 assists, zero turnovers in win vs. Denver Nuggets

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It had been seven years since a player had a game in the postseason with 15 assists and no turnovers, but Chris Paul accomplished the feat on Wednesday as the Phoenix Suns routed the Denver Nuggets 123-98 to take a 2-0 series lead.

The last player to post a 15-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio in a playoff game? Paul, in 2014, with the LA Clippers.

“Guys are open. I got the easy part. All I got to do is find them,” said Paul, who had 17 points. “They got to make the shots. It’s a credit to our coaching staff to tell you the truth. Things we’ve drilled all season long, it’s nice to see it come into play in game form, especially in the playoffs.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Paul had the 10th playoff game with 15 assists and zero turnovers since assists were tracked in 1977-78. And Paul has accounted for three of those games himself.

“Obviously 15 assists, zero turnovers is unheard of,” Devin Booker said, “but for Chris Paul, it’s a thing that he does, and makes it look normal.”

In the two games in the series, Paul has 26 assists to just one turnover. Going back to his last three playoff games, that ratio gets even more ridiculous, sitting at 38-2. He’s the first player with 10 or more assists and one or fewer assists in three straight playoff games since Maurice Cheeks in 1989.

The Suns showcased their impressive balance with six players in double-figures, including all five starters. But even with 123 points, no player scored more than 18 (Booker). It was a clinic in distribution, particularly in a raucous second half, as Paul carved the Nuggets, finding efficient possessions nearly every trip down the floor. In Game 2, the Suns shot 15-of-24 off Paul passes. Of the 15 makes, 11 were uncontested looks.

“I’m telling you man, I’ve never been on a team quite like this where everybody can shoot it the way that they do,” Paul said. “You don’t have to try to find a certain guy.”

Like in Game 1, Paul found his spots to assert himself offensively, too, hitting a flurry of shots early in the fourth quarter as the Suns put the game away. It’s one of Paul’s many rare talents, an ability to sense moments and pick his spots to attack the game himself, or get teammates involved.

When Paul joined the surging young Suns in the offseason, there was a lot of talk about his role as a mentor, as a leader, as a culture cultivator. At age 36 and plenty of tread on his tires, Paul’s cerebral presence was thought to be something that could boost the Suns just as much as his play. But as he’s shown this postseason, there’s still plenty left in the tank.

“I would never doubt Chris,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “His ability to manage the team, his track record, has success all over it and everywhere he’s been he’s been successful. He works his tail off and yeah, he’s 36 years old but he’s doing a lot of stuff off the floor so he can be effective on the floor.”

The series now turns to Denver, where the Nuggets are desperate for a response. Paul has been using his experience as a motivator, recounting the 2007-08 second-round series against the San Antonio Spurs where the New Orleans Pelicans took a 2-0 series lead, winning the opening two games by a combined 37 points.

“We’re cool. We’re cool. We’ve got a great locker room, guys that understand the moment. A guy like Jae Crowder, who’s been to the Finals,” Paul said. “I’ve played a lot too. I’m always talking about 2007-08, we played against the Spurs when I was in New Orleans and we won the first two games, beat the brakes off of ’em. I remember looking over there at Tim [Duncan] and all them and they weren’t fazed. It was just one game. That’s what we talk about as a team too. It’s just one game.”

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Atlanta Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu out about 6 months after shoulder surgery, sources say

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Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu — the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft — underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Wednesday, and he will miss approximately six months, sources told ESPN.

Okongwu’s role grew as the season wore on for the Hawks, but a lingering injury beginning in May resulted in the need for the procedure. Renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe performed the procedure on Okongwu in Los Angeles, sources said.

Okongwu, 20, is expected to make a full recovery, sources said.

Training camps start in late September, and the 82-game regular season for 2021-22 commences in mid-October.

Okongwu played 50 regular-season games for the Hawks and averaged 9.2 minutes in 18 playoff games in the Hawks’ run to the Eastern Conference finals. Okongwu showed significant promise in earning more minutes behind starter Clint Capela as the season wore on.

The Hawks drafted Okongwu out of the University of Southern California, where he was a first-team All-Pac 12 performer in his one season of college basketball.

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Gains sizable in NBA Finals ratings from last year, but fourth-lowest average since 1997

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NEW YORK — Television ratings for the NBA Finals and playoffs posted sizable increases over last year. But that was the only good news for the NBA as far as viewer numbers.

According to Nielsen, the NBA and ABC on Wednesday, the six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns averaged 9.91 million viewers, a 32% increase over last year’s series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which also went six games. However, the average makes it the fourth-lowest since 1997.

The Lakers-Heat series — which was played in October in the Orlando bubble after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back five months — averaged only 7.45 million.

San Antonio‘s 2007 four-game sweep of Cleveland (9.29 million) and the Spurs’ six-game victory over New Jersey in 2003 (9.83 million) are the other series to average fewer than 10 million since 1997.

The numbers were also down 34.5% compared to two years ago, when the TorontoGolden State series averaged 15.14 million.

Milwaukee’s 105-98 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night attracted the most viewers in the series, averaging 12.52 million. The audience peaked between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. EDT at 16.54 million. Only two games in the series averaged 10 million or more.

This year’s playoffs averaged 4.25 million, up 35% over last year but down 18% compared to 2019.

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Two shootings leave 3 wounded in Milwaukee during celebration of Bucks’ NBA championship

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MILWAUKEE — Two shootings in downtown Milwaukee early Wednesday as crowds celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks‘ first NBA championship in 50 years left three people wounded, police said.

The shootings both happened about 12:42 a.m. at two locations near Water Street, police said in a statement. TV station WISN had a reporter broadcasting from the scene when multiple shots were heard, prompting people to flee.

The shootings were across the Milwaukee River from Fiserv Forum, where the game was played, and the Deer District plaza, where a crowd of roughly 65,000 had gathered for an outdoor watch party. The area where the shootings took place is on a street heavily populated with bars and restaurants.

During Tuesday night’s game, a police officer was trampled by people trying to get into the Deer District watch party after the area had reached capacity, Milwaukee police Capt. Jesús Ortiz said in an email. The officer didn’t sustain any major injuries but reported being in general pain, Ortiz said.

Following one of the shootings, a 22-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries, police said, and a suspect was in custody.

In the other shooting, which police said happened simultaneously, a 19-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries. One person was in custody and other suspects were being sought, police said.

The two shootings, which were in the immediate area of the celebrations, likely were what was heard during the TV coverage, Ortiz said.

The celebrations came after Giannis Antetokounmpo capped one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points as Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win the series 4-2.

Fans who packed the streets surrounding the arena had cheered and danced all night as they watched the game on giant video screens, and the massive crowd erupted in jubilation as the game ended. A few fans climbed light poles in the plaza and others jumped off a bridge into the nearby river as fireworks exploded above the arena.

Joy Smith, 50, of Milwaukee, danced after the final buzzer. “Milwaukee is underrated, but we proved to the world we could do it,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another fan, Sabrina Holland, 37, of Milwaukee, called it “epic.” She said: “Everyone who’s anyone is here.“

Before the game, and at the city’s request, Gov. Tony Evers mobilized 150 National Guard members to help in Milwaukee with traffic control and public safety.

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