For his part, Williams said he was reassured when Paul went through a pregame workout with an assistant coach and showed improved mobility in his shoulder. It was the first time Paul had touched a basketball since the Suns’ 14-point loss in Game 3 on Thursday. The team’s training staff had recommended rest.
“They say that’s the only way to treat what I have going on,” said Paul, whose injury is listed as a contusion.
Paul made his first shot — a pull-up jumper from 11 feet — and was assertive in the second quarter after the Lakers had built a double-digit lead.
“I’m never doubting myself,” Paul said, “but I’m like, ‘Man, it’s on me. It’s on me.’ ”
He left even more of an imprint at the start of the third quarter, when Lakers center Anthony Davis remained in the locker room with a strained groin. There was Paul, racing upcourt on a fast break before dumping a pass to Deandre Ayton for a layup. There was Paul, darting through the lane for a short jumper. And there was Paul again, firing an 18-foot fadeaway to give the Suns a 14-point lead. Davis left a void, and Paul pounced on the opportunity.
“Once I got a couple shots to fall and we started to play with pace, we felt like we had it,” he said.
Paul, who finished with 18 points, 9 assists and 3 steals, was not totally himself by any stretch. He was still favoring his right shoulder and dribbling with his left hand whenever possible. But he was productive — more so than he had been all series — and his teammates fed off his hallmark frowny-face energy.
“The game’s a lot easier when he’s out there,” Suns guard Cameron Payne said.
It has been that way all season for the Suns, who have leaned heavily on Paul. His impact has gone far beyond creating open looks for teammates. “A lot of guys have changed how they work out, how they eat, just by being around Chris,” Williams said.