By leading the Suns to a berth in the NBA Finals Wednesday night, Chris Paul got rid of a lot of distinctions that he didn’t want, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Among players who had never reached the Finals, Paul had the most All-Star appearances and All-NBA selections, along with the most playoff starts and the most career points.
Those marks all belong to someone else now, as Paul scored 41 points and turned away the Clippers’ best comeback effort with a personal 8-0 run in the fourth quarter. The performance provided some vindication for the veteran guard, whose playoff history has been filled with untimely injuries and blown leads.
“There were questions about his production before tonight, and in my heart I felt like it was a matter of time,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I didn’t know it was going to be like that, but that’s who Chris is. He was tired and he was still making those kinds of plays — getting to the basket, the 3s, orchestrating everything.”
There’s more on the Suns, who will be playing for a title for the first time since 1993:
- Paul revealed that he had an MRI before the game that showed torn ligaments in his right hand. He also had to deal with a first-round shoulder injury and a bout with COVID-19 after the second round. “Just a week ago, I was here at home (under quarantine in Los Angeles). Couldn’t be there with my teammates,” he said. “It’s been a lot, and I want it not just for myself but for everybody in that locker room.”
- Paul will have a contract decision to make after the Finals, and sources tell Brian Windhorst of ESPN that he’s leaning toward opting out of his $44MM salary for next season to seek a longer-term deal.
- Devin Booker is among the many Suns players who have turned around their reputations with this playoff run, Windhorst adds. It took Booker six seasons to reach the postseason, but he has averaged 27.0 PPG and has earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which he will join as soon as the Finals are over.
- Suns players gave plenty of credit to Williams, who turned around a losing situation when he came to Phoenix two years ago, writes Joe Reedy of The Associated Press. Williams was passed over for Coach of the Year honors, but now he has something even better. “Monty coming in, building the culture, him leading us with the preparation meets opportunity. That was these moments right here, and we took it and we ran with it,” Booker said.