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Chris Paul plays through shoulder injury as Suns beat Lakers in Game 1

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (L), shown Feb. 26, 2021, finished with seven points and eight assists over 36 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. File Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (L), shown Feb. 26, 2021, finished with seven points and eight assists over 36 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. File Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE

May 23 (UPI) -- All-Star guard Chris Paul battled through a right shoulder contusion to help the Phoenix Suns beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 99-90 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Arizona.

Paul suffered the shoulder injury with under 10 minutes left in the first half when James jumped over him for a putback layup. Paul swiped at the ball with his right arm and lost his balance.

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As Paul's momentum took him to the floor, the veteran guard's head and shoulder knocked against the right shoulder of teammate Cameron Johnson.

The 36-year-old Paul immediately writhed on the court in pain as members of the Suns' training staff surrounded him. James and trainers eventually helped Paul to his feet, and Paul retreated to the locker room.

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Shortly later, Paul returned to the bench and checked back into the game with under six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

"Any time a guy lays it on the line physically like that after taking that kind of hit, it gives you juice," Suns head coach Monty Williams said after the game. "Then you think about every experience Chris has had, how many games he's played, everything he has accomplished.

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"Nobody would've faulted him for not coming back, but when he did come back we saw the emotion on his face and I thought that drove our guys. I got emotional just watching him battle tonight."

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Paul finished with seven points and eight assists over 36 minutes against the Lakers.

The 11-time NBA All-Star said he "absolutely" will be ready for Game 2 of the series Tuesday.

"I talked to him briefly just now and his words to me was he was OK and he would be OK moving forward," Williams said. "He was pretty sore when he came back, but him playing today gave us a lot of juice, a lot of energy. It was inspirational to watch him out there, give it his all on both sides of the floor."

Devin Booker led the Suns with a game-high 34 points on 13-of-26 shooting. He added eight assists and seven rebounds for Phoenix, which won its first postseason game in 11 years.

Suns center Deandre Ayton recorded 21 points and 16 rebounds in the victory and helped limit Lakers star big man Anthony Davis to just 13 points (5-of-16 shooting) and seven rebounds.

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Mikal Bridges and Johnson each added 10 points for the Suns in their playoff debuts.

James had a team-best 18 points and 10 assists for the Lakers. Dennis Schroder had 14 points, while Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell each chipped in 12 points.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday night in Phoenix.

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