Being up 3-1 in a series isn’t something that Chris Paul is particularly joyful about yet. That’s understandable, considering his bad history with the LA Clippers, who blew a 3-1 advantage against the Houston Rockets in 2015.
There’s a great sense of irony that Paul, who missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals as he was put into the NBA’s health and safety protocols, has the opportunity to erase that memory against the Clippers.
It’s been one hell of a long journey for the Point God, too. Out of the famed ‘Banana Boat Team’, Paul is the only one left in the playoffs this year. Dwyane Wade has been retired for two years, Carmelo Anthony was knocked out by the Denver Nuggets, and LeBron James and the Lakers fell to Paul’s Suns in the previous round.
For Paul, this season may be his last and best shot at getting the title that’s eluded him for so long. He’s suffered a lot of playoff heartbreak, not just with the Clippers, but also with the Rockets, where an injury saw him miss the final two games of a close series against the Golden State Warriors.
He’ll get to do it as a main cog of the Phoenix machine, too.
In 12 playoff games, he’s averaged 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.3 steals and an incredibly low 1.7 turnovers per game. He’s been the heart and soul of the Suns, and has elevated the game of everyone around him – including their young stars Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. He’s also been their most vocal leader, and it is clear how much everyone loves playing with him.
As Paul knows, though, the series against the Clippers still isn’t over. Paul George and his teammates are scrappy and the Suns’ three victories came within margins of at most 6 points.
Making the Finals is one thing, but winning the title is another challenge entirely. The Suns will be facing the Bucks or Hawks in the Finals, and the former are rounding into form at the right time. Milwaukee’s 125-91 annihilation of the Hawks served as a great reminder of how hard they can be to defeat when their star trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are clicking.
A matchup between the Suns and Bucks would be pretty compelling, especially since Phoenix has its own trio of formidable players in Paul, Booker and Ayton.
There are only three active NBA players left from the 2005 draft class, and Paul’s the one with the best shot at a ring. Ersan Ilyasova was eliminated with the Jazz last round, and Lou Williams has a hard task ahead of him against the Bucks.
It’s hard not to root the 36-year-old floor general in this campaign. The man’s paid his dues. Let’s see if Paul and the Suns can close it out in front of their fans in Game 5.