Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals was a frustrating night at the office for Suns guard Chris Paul.
While the Mavericks earned a 10-point win to even the series at two games apiece, Paul was limited to just 23 minutes of action before fouling out. Sunday’s loss marked just the fourth time that Paul has fouled out in 139 postseason games, and the 37-year-old was among many in the Suns camp that was visibly frustrated with some of the calls.
Often known for his clever gamesmanship and the art of drawing fouls, Paul found himself falling victim to the very same tricks he often employs on a nightly basis.
Paul was charged with four fouls in the first half alone, with his first coming just 26 seconds into the game. The fourth foul was by far the most controversial of the half as Paul was whistled for making contact with Luka Doncic on an offensive rebound attempt with just 1.1 seconds remaining in the half.
— ESPN (@espn) May 8, 2022
Immediately after, Paul could be seen discussing the play with Doncic, who disclosed their conversation following the game. It went just about how you would have expected it to go.
Doncic said that on the play at the end of the half when he drew Paul’s fourth foul, Paul asked. “Did I push you that hard?” Doncic responded, “No, but it was a good play.” Paul: “I know.”
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) May 8, 2022
Paul’s fifth foul resulted in more controversy as he was whistled for creating contact with Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson less than three minutes into the second half. Seemingly a routine play that Paul has often used to draw fouls himself, the initiated contact resulted in an offensive foul call, and the ruling was upheld following a challenge by head coach Monty Williams.
With Paul sidelined for the remainder of the third quarter, he returned for the final frame, where his mastery has lifted the Suns time and time again.
That wouldn’t be the case in Game 4.
Paul’s sixth foul came as he guarded Brunson in the post, where contact resulted in another whistle.
Chris Paul has fouled out of Game 4 after this play on Jalen Brunson. pic.twitter.com/r5ooajNzCw
— ESPN (@espn) May 8, 2022
In total, Paul was limited to three minutes and 58 seconds of action in the second half.
Is it a coincidence that Paul’s final three fouls came on Dallas’ talented duo of young guards? According to Jason Kidd, Brunson and Doncic are giving Paul a taste of his own medicine.
Jason Kidd on Mavs drawing timely fouls: “We’re being taught by one of the best point guards ever on the other side. That’s pretty cool.”
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 8, 2022
According to the pool report with officials following Game 4, Paul’s fifth foul came as he “veers into the path of the defender without giving him the opportunity to avoid contact,” while his sixth foul was a product of “causing (Brunson) to lose his balance in the air and fall backwards” by grabbing his wrist.
Talk of officiating dominated postgame discussions, with Paul calling his foul trouble “crazy.”
Foul trouble played a large role in Game 4 but Paul was limited to averages of 8.5 points, 5.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds in the two games since the series shifted to Dallas.
With the series returning to Phoenix for Game 5, the Suns will look to regain command of the series by keeping their stars on the floor, while the Mavericks will look to continue to build upon what’s worked in the past two games, which includes the gamesmanship with Paul.
The teams are back in action for Game 5 on Tuesday, May 10 at 10 p.m. ET.