After 16 years, Chris Paul finally gets to NBA Finals
Chris Paul is an 11-time All-Star who had one big hole in a Hall of Fame resume.
The 16-year veteran changed that narrative Wednesday night when he sealed his first trip the NBA Finals.
Paul scored 31 of his 41 points in the second half to help the Phoenix Suns notch a 130-103 victory over the host Los Angeles Clippers, wrapping up the Western Conference finals in six games.
The result sends the Suns to the NBA Finals for the first time in 28 years.
Paul’s first trip to the Finals comes in his first season with his fifth team, an organization that spent the entire past decade watching the postseason.
The new team proved to be the right fit for the 36-year-old guard.
Chris Paul discusses the desire he has to succeed for his family, his hometown, and his brother.@Suns advance to the #NBAFinals presented by YouTube TV for the first time since 1993! #ThatsGame #NBAWCF presented by AT&T pic.twitter.com/m6NJqm3YRc
— NBA (@NBA) July 1, 2021
“From Day One, they welcomed me with open arms,” Paul said. “We still got a lot of work to do, but we’re going to enjoy this — 16 years, surgeries, hard work, losses, bad losses, but we’re going to enjoy tonight.”
Paul shot 7 of 8 from 3-point range and 16 of 24 overall while helping slay his former organization. He also had eight assists and three steals.
When the Clippers pulled within seven points late in the third quarter, Paul took over and personally delivered the knockout punch to the Los Angeles season.
“He’s just a great player, a great leader and he serves his teammates,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We saw that tonight. He was dead tired and he was still able to make play after play after play. That’s his will. I’m just happy to watch him in this moment.”
Devin Booker scored 22 points, Jae Crowder added 19 points and Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 17 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns.
Marcus Morris Sr. registered 26 points and nine rebounds and Paul George added 21 points for the fourth-seeded Clippers. Patrick Beverley was ejected with 5:49 remaining when he came up behind Paul and shoved him to the court.
"I want it, not just for myself, but for everyone in that locker room."@CP3 reflects after clinching his first trip to the #NBAFinals presented by YouTube TV with the @Suns.#NBAWCF presented by AT&T pic.twitter.com/FtGOKx8V3c
— NBA (@NBA) July 1, 2021
“I’m proud of what we did as a team,” said George, who topped 20 points in every game in the series. “I wasn’t out to prove anything to anybody, just to be a leader for this team.”
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (knee) missed his eighth straight game and teammate Ivica Zubac (knee) sat out his second in a row.
Cameron Johnson (non-COVID illness) was sidelined for Phoenix, which made 17 of 31 3-point attempts (54.8 percent) and shot 56.4 percent overall.
Phoenix will face either the Atlanta Hawks or the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals. Those teams are tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Suns previously reached the Finals twice, falling to the Boston Celtics in 1976 and to the Chicago Bulls in 1993. Both series went six games.
Phoenix hadn’t even played in a playoff game since 2010 prior to this season’s run, which has included series victories against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and the Clippers.
Los Angeles was trying to reach the NBA Finals for the first time.
“I thought we ran out of gas,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We made a lot of mistakes mentally. That tells you guys are tired.”
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