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Sun rising at the right time, roar in the conference final


DENVER — Jay Crowder received all kinds of questionable text messages for his decision to sign with the Phoenix Suns in the off-season.

what was he thinking? Sun had not reached the playoffs in a decade. The West had collapsed.

“I look like a genius, huh?” Cracked Crowder, who took his talents to the Sons after helping Miami reach the NBA Finals last season. “I knew what kind of group these people were. I felt like they were hungry. They wanted to do certain things and I wanted to be a part of it.

Backcourts from Chris Paul and Devin Booker and consistent contributions from the likes of Crowder are roaring into the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010, the last year they reached the postseason.

The Suns completed a four-game sweep of the short-handed Denver Nuggets with a 125-118 victory in a Test game Sunday night in which MVP Nikola Jokic was knocked out in the third quarter for a major foul over Cameron Payne .

It was the seventh consecutive win for the Phoenix – the longest playoff winning streak in the team’s history.

After tossing out LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers in six games during the first round, the Suns made even quicker work of Jokic and the Nuggets.

Now, he will have to rest before playing top-seeded Utah or Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz entered Game 4 in Los Angeles on Monday night after beating that series 2-1. The Phoenix regular season was 1–2 against the Clippers and 3–0 against the Jazz.

“Everyone is upset at the moment and could use a recovery like this,” said Phoenix coach Monty William. “We earned it and we want to take advantage of it.

“But right now, I’m not even thinking about it. I’m happy with what these people have done.”

Crowder has become quite the postseason catalyst, with his teams leading 22-9 in their last 31 playoff games. Before the 2020 season, their teams were 20-31 in playoff games.

“Very impressive how close we are as a unit,” Crowder said. “We have great leadership. We have great coaching which is putting us in a position to be successful right now.

“I definitely feel like we’re connected as a group and it shows.”

Right after the final horn, Paul and Booker – who combined with 71 points – made their way through handshakes and hugs after the series near the Nuggets logo.

Williams was waiting on the side. He shared a heartfelt hug with everyone.

Williams is tight-lipped with Paul from his coach/guard time in New Orleans. They also have a strong bond off the court, and Paul was there for Williams when Williams lost his wife to injuries in a car accident in 2016.

“Monty has gone through things in his life that many people don’t necessarily come back from,” said Paul, who scored 13 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter. “Basketball aside, he means a lot to me and my family. So it’s nice to be on this journey with him and it pays off. We’re very much alike. We keep locked inside. I don’t feel well when Till the buzzer rings. Monty just like that. When the series ends, and the game is over, it’s good to share those moments.”

The last time a cast was behind was in 2010, which included Amar’a Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill. They lost 4–2 to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Williams said of reaching the conference finals, “The feelings are happy, grateful, tired, relieved. It’s one of those moments for me that frankly I never thought I’d get a chance to experience.” For me, I have a level of gratitude I can’t even explain.”

Sharing this with Paul means much more.

“Chris means a lot to my career, he means a lot to my life,” Williams said. “The darkest moment of my life Chris was there and one of the highlights of my career, he’s right there.

“That’s where it’s at right now. I’m really not good at eloquence about how I feel other than to tell you that I’m grateful for the opportunity and in this team and this moment and so forth. There’s a chance to grow.”

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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AP Basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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