DALLAS -- Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul registered more fouls than points for the first time in his postseason career in the Suns' 111-101 Game 4 loss to the Mavericks on Sunday, causing the veteran point guard to vow to adjust his play to avoid the officials' whistles moving forward.
"It was crazy, man. It was crazy," Paul said after finishing with six fouls and five points in 23 minutes. "I can't put myself in the situations to give [the referees] that ability to do that. I just got to look at myself and figure out how to be better."
Paul picked up his first foul just 26 seconds into the game and was called for four by halftime.
Suns coach Monty Williams said he should have subbed Paul out at the end of the second quarter when he already had three fouls, rather than leave him in and risk what ultimately happened: Paul being called for his fourth foul with 1:52 to go before the half.
"Everybody's got to take ownership and it starts with me," Williams said. "I made some decisions tonight and put us in a tough spot. I should have kept Chris out of the game, especially right before halftime."
Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who called Paul "one of the best point guards this league has ever had," was involved with Paul's fourth foul while they battled for a rebound and he sold the contact -- a trick right out of Paul's book.
"I saw he was going for the rebound, and I was surprised. He [asked] me if he pushed me that hard," Doncic said after finishing with 26 points and 11 assists. "I said, 'No, not that hard, but it was a smart play.' He said, 'Yeah, I know.'"
Paul's fifth foul occurred a couple minutes into the third quarter when he was dribbling the ball in the backcourt and collided with the Mavs' Jalen Brunson, who was guarding him. Williams challenged the call and it was upheld after a review.
"Just trying to save our guy ... hopefully they turn it over," Williams explained. "That's just one where you use it just to say, that's where you [tried to] save one of your starters from getting a high foul number."
Crew chief Kane Fitzgerald, speaking to a pool reporter after the game, defended the decision.
"Chris Paul veers into the path of the defender without giving him the opportunity to avoid contact so that is why it is an offensive foul," Fitzgerald said.
Williams, knowing Paul was only one foul away from disqualification, subbed Paul out with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter and didn't bring him back into the game until there was 10:28 left in the fourth.
Phoenix hung tough in that stretch, seeing the deficit grow only from seven to nine without the All-Star floor commander, but Paul couldn't stay on the court for another signature closing stretch. Coming into Sunday, Paul was leading the NBA by averaging 9.7 points in the fourth quarter this postseason.
However he was on the court for just one minute and 30 seconds in the fourth in Game 4 before being called for foul No. 6 in another play involving Brunson, which fouled him out.
"As Brunson jumps to get the rebound Chris Paul grabs his right wrist causing him to lose his balance in the air and fall backwards," Fitzgerald explained to a pool reporter when asked about the call.
It was the fourth time in Paul's playoff career that he fouled out, and the first time since 2018, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information. Phoenix's offense struggled with Paul on the bench, shooting 42% from the field (including 27% from 3) in the time he was out compared to 53% overall (50% on 3s) in the time he was on, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Paul, whose mind could have understandably been focused on the harassment his family received at American Airlines Center on Sunday, avoided questions about specific sequences after the game.
"I got to look at the film and figure it out," Paul said. "It's like a blur tonight."
Suns shooting guard Devin Booker, who led the team with 35 points, alluded to the challenging nature of how Game 4 was officiated.
"I've been in 500 basketball games, or something like that, and I haven't quite seen one like today," he said. "So, it was tough. It was a different type of a game, a different energy. I mean, starting off the game, foul trouble. Techs for no reason."
Booker expressed confidence that the Suns would respond strongly in Tuesday's Game 5 back at Footprint Center in Phoenix, with the series tied 2-2.
"We're just going to play our game, that's Phoenix Suns basketball," he said. "We're going to play all the way through the clock, no matter if we feel the refs are against us or not. We're just going to keep playing. I think everybody on our team has been in worse situations in life."
After scoring 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 to help push Phoenix out to a 2-0 lead, it's been a nightmarish series for Paul. He totaled just 17 points total over the past two games in Dallas, not to mention seven turnovers in Game 3 and the six fouls in Game 4.
Williams said his team's mentality should be expecting to win Game 5 and close things out back in Dallas in Game 6. Booker pointed out that three of the Suns' series in last year's postseason lasted six games, plus Phoenix's first-round win over the New Orleans Pelicans this year went six, too.
"We understand that it is a series and it's the playoffs for a reason," Booker said. "The best teams in the NBA are here and nobody wants to lose. So just taking that all in, flushing this game and just coming out with the right mentality. If we're worried about the last couple games the whole time, I think we're at a disadvantage."
ESPN staff writer Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.