The only knock on Chris Paul’s career is his postseason record. Well, there’s also the constant, relentless complaining to the refs on every single call…. OK, let me rephrase that. The only achievement knock on Chris Paul’s career is his postseason record.
For years he was undisputed as the best PG, primary ball-handler in the league. With the ascension of a few younger cats (Curry, Westbrook, Kyrie.) you can have a discussion who is the best, but that discussion comes down to your basketball preference. His ability to be a pure playmaker and his basketball IQ is undeniable.
Yet, this is the first time in his career Chris Paul won’t be going on vacation this time of year. In his 13th season in the NBA, he finally advanced to the Conference Finals. Let’s take a look at his previous results:
- 2008 playoffs – won first-round vs. the Mavericks 4-1, lost in the second round vs. Spurs 4 – 3
- 2009 playoffs – lost in the first round vs. Mavericks 4 – 1
- 2011 playoffs – lost in the first round vs. Lakers 4 – 2
- 2012 playoffs – won first-round vs. Grizzlies 4 – 3, swept in the second round by the Spurs 4-0
- 2013 playoffs – lost in the first round vs. the Grizzlies 4 – 2
- 2014 playoffs – won first-round vs. Warriors 4 – 3, lost in the second round vs. Thunder 4 – 2
- 2015 playoffs – won first-round vs. Spurs 4 – 3, lost in the second round vs. Houston 4 – 3
- 2016 playoffs – lost in the first round vs. Trail Blazers 4 – 2
Out of all the seasons, the one that broke the camels back has to be the 2015 playoffs. The Clippers were at the top of their game, they won a monster Game 7 against the Spurs and the mood around the team was that this was the year. They advanced to see the Rockets and had a 3 – 1 lead in the series after 4 games. The Rockets seemed outmatched and everyone was already looking to the Conference Finals and the Warriors. It was Game 6 when they had a 19-point lead in the 3rd quarter and it seemed it was all over, Harden checked out of the game and the result was just a formality. Then, Josh Smith decided to do his best Steph Curry impersonation and just started making shots.
The Rockets came back and won that game with Harden on the bench! Smith ended up with 19 points, most of those in the 4th quarter and the Clippers never recovered mentally.
Paul was always notorious for being hard on teammates. They get the same treatment the refs get. He is not the most assertive of communicators and complains about every little thing. DeAndre Jordan’s decision to leave the Clippers and the whole drama that ensued was mostly based on his exhaustion from being yelled at by Paul.
And then there’s the whole Warriors thing. Since the 2014 playoffs, the Warriors won 11 out of 12 regular-season games against the Clippers while Paul was playing there. What seemed to be the next great rivalry turned into a proper dominance by the Warriors.
Now he is on a team with James Harden who had one of the greatest disappearing acts of 2017 with his performance in the playoffs. Harden also had his issues in the playoffs so their biggest challenge in the Conference Finals will be mental more than anything else. Can they stay calm and trust each other when things go south?