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Suns bounce back to even series, Lakers’ Davis injured again

Chris Paul overcame an injured shoulder and Jae Crowder busted out of a playoff slump Sunday as the Phoenix Suns took a 100-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, who lost Anthony Davis to another injury.

Paul had 18 points and nine assists, while Crowder delivered 17 points as half a dozen players finished in double figures for the Suns, who clawed their way level at 2-2 in the Western Conference playoff series against the reigning NBA champions.

Paul had to plead with the coaching staff to get into the game, but the move paid off as he had his best game of the first-round series after injuring his shoulder in game one.

Paul said Suns coach Monty Williams was going to sit him, but Paul said he petitioned: “Give me a couple of minutes, see what I can do.”

“He said, ‘Coach, let me start, and if you don’t think I’m looking like I normally do, then take me out and we’ll have to go in a different direction,” said Williams.

“This is one of those situations that I had to trust the player.”

Crowder also had his best game so far, his 17 points the same number he scored in games two and three combined. He grabbed seven rebounds in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 8,000 at the Staples Center.

Heading into game four, Crowder had made just 7-of-27 shots and was 2-of-20 from three-point range.

But all he wanted to talk about after the game was the play of Paul.

“He’s a big part of the puzzle. It’s a little challenging when we don’t have him doing things he normally does. It’s definitely monumental that he’s out there for our team,” said Crowder.

Devin Booker also scored 17 points, Deandre Ayton finished with 14 points and a team-high 17 rebounds, Cameron Payne netted 13 and Mikal Bridges tallied 11 for the Suns, who can take their first lead of the series with a win in game five on Tuesday.

LeBron James scored a team-high 25 points and had 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who had to play half the game without eight-time NBA All-Star Davis.

“For me, it’s putting our team in position to be successful,” James said. “These shoulders were built for a reason, and if it takes a little more to put on top of it, I’m ready for the challenge.”

Davis fell hard and went to the locker room with an apparent left leg injury. He finished with just six points after leading Los Angeles in scoring in game three with 34. The Lakers said Davis, who missed 30 games in the regular season, had a strained groin and would be examined by team doctors on Monday to determine the extent of the injury.

“I thought he was laboring a little bit even before the groin injury,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of Davis. “He was saying that his knee was sore, but there was no way that he was not going to play.”

Hawks rip Knicks

Trae Young scored 27 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 113-96 victory over visiting New York on Sunday, pushing the Knicks to the brink of elimination.

John Collins added 22 points, while Italy’s Danilo Gallinari scored 21 off the bench and Clint Capela added 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks.

Atlanta seized a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series with game five set for Wednesday in New York.

Julius Randle led the Knicks with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while R.J. Barrett added 21 points for New York.

Also, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 81 points as the Brooklyn Nets routed the host Boston Celtics 141-126 in game four of their Eastern Conference series.

Durant had 42 and Irving scored 39 as the Nets seized control in the second quarter to lead the series three games to one.

They can advance to their first conference semi-final since 2014 with a win Tuesday at home.

In the late game, Kawhi Leonard had 29 points and 10 rebounds while Paul George scored 20 points as the Los Angeles Clippers cruised past the Dallas Mavericks 106-81 in game four to tie the series 2-2.

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