Chris Paul made history as he led the Phoenix Suns to a 111-94 win against the LA Lakers on Sunday. The veteran guard entered the game just nine assists shy of the 10,000 career assists mark before accomplishing the feat in the second half of the game.
In the process, Paul joined Hall of Fame point guards John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson in the exclusive club.
The Phoenix Suns took advantage of the short-handed LA Lakers, who were without All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The game was mostly a lopsided affair which saw the home team leading by double-digits almost the entire duration.
The LA Lakers usually shoot wide-open threes with James around, but without the four-time MVP to draw the opposition defense, the Phoenix Suns swarmed them on the night. Wesley Matthews and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined to shoot 1 of 7 from the three, with the entire team going 5 of 25 from beyond the arc.
The win keeps the Phoenix Suns in second place in the Western Conference, while the LA Lakers remain in third despite the loss. On that note, let's have a look at the game’s five hits and flops:
Hit: Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns)
Never mind, he was 3 of 11 from the field and 0 of 3 from the 3-point arc. This was Chris Paul's night, as his playmaking skills were on full display. The 16-year veteran did something that few others before him have been able to do.
Paul dished the rock to perfection as his Phoenix Suns teammates converted the easy shots delivered to them by one of the best point guards ever. Aside from the assists record, he recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists to go with three steals.
The Phoenix Suns floor general assisted Deandre Ayton for a dunk with 7:09 to go in the third quarter to join the 10,000 assists club. The historic achievement was not lost on LA Lakers forward LeBron James, who is a good friend of Paul and congratulated him after the game.
Flop: Wesley Matthews (LA Lakers)
Wesley Matthews started the game but couldn’t get anything going without James on the floor. Not that he didn’t have the opportunities to score because he was given 16 minutes against the Phoenix Suns to snap out of his shooting struggles.
Matthews couldn’t make a single basket, going 0 of 5 from the floor, and he was benched for most of the second half.
There was a moment in the first half when he had an open shot, but you could tell from his stroke that it wasn’t going in. His form was way off, indicating that this is likely a confidence issue for the sharpshooting guard.
Hit: Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
One of the best active scorers in the game, Devin Booker, made the first two baskets of the match for the Phoenix Suns. Those shots warmed him up early for the game as he scored 26 points on the night. He also added nine rebounds and four assists.
Booker played point guard on more than a few occasions in previous years before Paul arrived in Phoenix. That was evident in the way he routinely found open teammates against the Lakers. His heads-up plays kept the defense honest, which paved the way for the Phoenix Suns guard to get open looks for himself as well.
The two-time All-Star hit a clutch basket with less than three minutes left in the game when the LA Lakers were trying to make a last rally. That shot gave his team a 105-91 lead and sealed the win for the Phoenix Suns.
Flop: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (LA Lakers)
A recipient of many passes from LeBron James, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot blanks on the night, drilling just two of his seven attempts from the floor. Among his teammates, he was one of those expected to step up big for the LA Lakers to have a shot at winning the game.
However, KCP mirrored Matthews’ game somewhat, but he did it while playing 30 minutes. The other LA Lakers players needed him to knock down a few more threes to give them more room in the middle for their drives. Unfortunately, Caldwell-Pope failed them on the night.
Hit: Montrezl Harrell (LA Lakers)
Montrezl Harrell steadied the LA Lakers ship with his play in the paint. Harrell made 10 of 13 shots from the field and scored 23 points to go along with ten rebounds to give his team an inside presence.
Harrell took care of the board work despite giving up a lot of height and heft to Phoenix Suns' center Deandre Ayton. The LA Lakers center limited Ayton to just eight rebounds, three less than his average.
Additionally, it was the veteran center who energized the visitors, as he ruthlessly attacked the basket time and time again.