With the chance to play in his first-ever NBA Finals series, Chris Paul would simply not be denied on Wednesday night in Los Angeles as he led both teams in scoring with 41 points, tying his playoff career-high. Paul made sure that there would be no deciding game back in Phoenix as the Clippers started to mount their comeback in the second half, hitting shot after shot and making smart plays that killed any momentum that Clippers were starting to build. CP3 also did what he does best, taking exceptional care of the ball en route to 8 assists without a single turnover and leading the Suns to a 130-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Simply put, the “point god” put on a clinic at the Staples Center getting anything he wanted out of the high screen and roll, controlling the pace of the game and essentially playing so well that Patrick Beverley decided to get himself ejected with a two-handed shove on Paul as the teams were heading back to their benches for a timeout. It was a masterclass in playoff basketball, and one can only feel happy for Chris to have performed like this to lead his team to the NBA finals, especially since up until today, his playoff career has been a story of shortcomings and bad luck.
CP3 started competing in the postseason early in his career with the franchise that drafted him, the New Orleans Hornets. Alongside David West and Tyson Chandler, the Hornets were a playoff contender thanks to Chris’ rapid ascent to being considered one of the top point guards in the game and a solid veteran supporting cast that played off of his ability to facilitate and create opportunities for others. However, a fierce competitor like Paul soon became frustrated with the team’s inability to get over the hump against some of the more seasoned playoff teams, such as the Lakers and Spurs. This led to Chris constantly having friction regarding how to run the team with coach Monty Williams. After six seasons of trying, the Hornets blew it up and sent Chris Paul to LA on December 8, 2011.
It was the Los Angeles Clippers, however, and not the Lakers that acquired Paul after a prior trade to the Purple and Gold was vetoed by Commissioner David Stern acting in the interest of the Pelicans. This was the time of the Lob City Clippers with Blake Griffin and blown 3-1 leads under the supervision of Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. This was Chris’ first real taste of playoff disappointment as they were favored and sometimes leading in multiple playoff series only to be hit by some sort of unfortunate event, the most iconic of which was the scandal involving previous owner Donald Sterling. After several tries, Chris then left LA for Houston to join James Harden and the soaring Rockets.
Who could forget the team that had the Hamptons Five on the ropes in the conference finals only for Chris to be hit with a hamstring injury that would keep him out for the latter part of the series, followed by the sudden disappearance of the ability for the Mike D’Antoni Rockets to hit open three-pointers, something they did an elite level up to that point. Houston never got over the hump as KD, and the Dubs dominated the West in those years, so Chris got dealt for Russel Westbrook and dragged an odd OKC team within minutes of a first-round playoff win against the Rockets in the bubble. That experiment was short-lived, and Chris suddenly found himself reunited with Monty Williams, but this time with the young Phoenix Suns.
“It feels damn good. Been a lot of work, a lot of work. Going to a new team, everybody staying the course, that team fights hard…. I just want to get over there with my team.”Chris Paul, post game interview with Rachel Nichols, ESPN
Chris was visibly emotional after the win. After falling short so many times in the past, the Clippers cut the Suns early lead to 7, but then Chris scored 14 of the next 16 points for his team and put the home team away for good. He was at a loss for words, and one can only imagine how good it felt to finally make it this far after all the work he has put in and the adversity he has dealt with in his career. This time with a team that was doubted throughout the regular season, Chris has led a bunch of talented young players to the Finals with the help of another tough veteran in Jae Crowder.
Oftentimes championship teams are assembled in the offseason and automatically become favorites from the sheer collection of talent; they then proceed to try and put the pieces together as the season goes along, hoping to figure it out in time for the big dance. This team is different; they are all about discipline and teamwork on both ends of the floor. They are a mix of grit and flair, using a balanced attack to now help Chris get to his first-ever NBA finals and the first for the franchise since 1993.
It has been a tough road for the one they call “point god” and considered to be the best leader in the game today but make no mistake about it, Chris and the Suns are not resting on their laurels as they will be ready to take what they believe has always been theirs, this year’s Larry O’Brien trophy.
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