Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul has made it to the NBA Finals! Paul scored 31 of his game-high 41 points in the second half, including 19 points in the fourth quarter, as the Suns defeated the Clippers 130-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Wednesday night. With the win, Phoenix will make the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Paul’s 31 points in the second half is the most he’s scored in the second half in his career(regular season and playoffs).
In addition, the 36-year-old Paul, who scored 37 points in a series-clinching win against the Nuggets in the second round, became the oldest player in postseason history with 35 points in consecutive close-out games within a postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The 16-year veteran struggled with his shot in the team’s Game 5 loss against the Clippers, but Suns head coach Monty Williams knew that Paul could have a breakout performance in this series, and it came at the right time.
“I’ve told you guys from the jump I wanted to stay out of his way,” Williams said postgame. “There were questions about his production before tonight, and in my heart, I felt like it was a matter of time. I didn’t know it was going to be like that, but that’s who Chris(Paul) is. He was tired, and he was still making those kinds of plays — getting to the basket, the threes, orchestrating everything.”
Paul, who spent six seasons with the Clippers, broke Los Angeles with his performance in the second half, and the Suns knew that when Patrick Beverley shoved Paul in the back after a Clippers’ timeout in the fourth quarter. Beverley would get ejected, and Phoenix continued to pour it on.
“Over the years, people talk junk to me, and a lot of times I usually say something back, but I done changed a little,” Paul said. “A little. A little. And I just kept thinking, if we do what we’re supposed to do, I get the last laugh. So you stay the course long enough, you break ’em, and that’s what we did.”
Jae Crowder, who scored 19 points in Game 6, added on Beverley’s shove: “They broke. We know we broke them. There’s no better sign of defeat than knowing that moment, that moment where it’s like competition meets and we just — you can’t do anything else to help your team overcome that situation. He just broke. That’s what we were trying to reach.”
Paul, who was traded to the Suns by the Thunder last offseason, getting to this point was not easy. He’s suffered untimely injuries in past years during the playoffs and had untimely injuries this postseason(shoulder, COVID), but according to Paul, he knew his chance to make it to the Finals would come.
When asked if he ever thought this moment would not happen, Paul said the following:
“No. No. I ain’t built like that. It’s just get to work,” he said. “Get to work. What was it, Game 3, I find out I tore some ligaments in my hand. I said, oh, here we go. But you just — I got an unbelievable team around me.”
Not many people had the Suns in the NBA Finals, but guess what? They’re here, and with home-court advantage in the Finals, injury issues with both the Hawks and Bucks, and based on the way they’re playing, Phoenix has an excellent chance to win a championship.
Watch below as Paul talks making NBA Finals:
With 8.2 seconds left and the Suns trailing the Clippers 103-102 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, Paul George, who led Los Angeles with 26 points, had a chance to put the Clippers up by three, but he missed both free throws.
After Mikal Bridges missed a corner three and ball went out of bounds off the Clippers, it appeared Phoenix’s eight-game postseason winning streak was about to end.
However, something amazing happened with 0.9 seconds left. Jae Crowder threw a beautiful lob pass from underneath the basket to Deandre Ayton, who dunked the ball to give the Suns a 104-103 victory over the Clippers at Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday night.
Phoenix has a 2-0 series lead, with Game 3 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Cameron Payne, who got his second straight start due to Chris Paul(health and safety protocols) being out, led the Suns with a career-high 29 points and nine assists with zero turnovers, and Devin Booker added 20 points.
The Suns extended their postseason win streak to a franchise-record nine consecutive wins. It ties for the 10th-longest win streak in NBA playoff history. Phoenix is 10-2 this postseason and has not dropped a game since Game 3 against the Lakers on May 27.
Ayton, who recorded his 8th double-double of the postseason with 24 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, gave all the credit to Crowder.
“Well, I’ll start off by saying that’s definitely Jae’s (Crowder) game-winner, making a great pass for a seven-footer,” Ayton said after the game. “Other than that, Coach drew up a great play where I was in the best position. My teammates trust me and my coaches trust me, and Book(Devin Booker) set a great screen that freed me up into the lane to at least gather my feet and go for the ball, and the rest is just off my athleticism and my talent. Jae set it up right there perfectly.”
Suns head coach Monty Williams added: “Credit to Jae, we were trying to get a lob for DA, and he had the awareness to put it up there where DA could only get it. Book sets a great screen, Jae makes a great pass. It’s just one of those things that happens where you’re just grateful for.”
According to Ayton, this was the best play of his career.
“I wasn’t too sure if it counted,” Ayton said. “I didn’t want it to be a blooper or none of that. I just wanted to get to the next play, or the refs confirm what it is. I was just so anxious. I was really stressed. It was a lot. I’m looking at the fans; I’m looking at the environment. It was a lot, but that was my best play, and I tried to embrace it.”
The Clippers have been in this spot before. Los Angeles has been down 0-2 in every series in these playoffs, and according to Patrick Beverley, who got the start in Game 2, the Clippers will find a way to get back into this series.
“I don’t think you like to start two games in the hole,” he said. “I don’t think that’s our plan. This game, I’ve played a lot of games in this league, this one’s hard. This one goes up there. This is a hard game to kind of swallow because you look at this game, I mean, we got this game won, you know. But we’ve been in the trenches before. We respond well in the trenches. We’ll respond well. We always do.”
This series is not over because we know how resilient the Clippers have been in the playoffs, but they will have to make up another 0-2 deficit, and they will probably have to do it without Kawhi Leonard, who missed his third straight game with a sprained knee.
With the possibility of Paul coming back in this series, Phoenix has the advantage. However, Los Angeles has been here before. Let’s see if it matters going forward.
-Cam Johnson scored 11 points off the bench in 24 minutes of action tonight. Johnson has scored in double figures in both games against the Clippers this series after scoring 10-plus points just three times in Phoenix’s first 10 games this postseason.
-Dario Saric scored 11 points tonight, the most points he’s scored this postseason. Saric added 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 13 minutes of action off the bench.
-After taking a four-point lead into the fourth quarter tonight, the Suns moved to 9-0 this postseason when leading after three quarters of play. The Suns were 41-7 in such games during the regular season.