It seems like a distant memory now, but when Chris Paul left the ground in the Phoenix Suns Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers by squeezing his right shoulder, the collective hearts of everyone in the arena, and most of the home spectators, sank.
We’ve been here with Paul before.
In the 2017-18 Western Conference Finals, and with the Houston Rockets 3-2 in the series against the Kevin Durant Warriors, Paul suffered a hamstring injury. Houston lost Games 6 and 7 and that’s it. This is the only time in his illustrious career to date that Paul has even come so close.
A similar thing happened in 2014-15, after hitting a ridiculous, hampering and unbalanced float on Tim Duncan and Danny Green to win Game 7 in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs. He missed the first two games of the semi-finals against the Rockets (which he would later join via trade) with the very injury that caused his heroic last breath, never really looked at himself and the Clippers were fired in sept.
The following season, Paul broke his hand in Game 4 of the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, who progressed to six as a result.
It seems that whenever ‘Point God’ has a team around them capable of winning a championship, injuries strike. In 12 postseason games, he never reached the NBA Finals. Until this year, that 3-2 lead in the final against arguably the greatest basketball team ever made seemed to be the closest he could have ever achieved in a ring.
Even though Phoenix finished second in the league this season, posting a 51-21 record, they were given the unenviable task of toppling the defending Los Angeles Lakers champion in the first round. History seemed to repeat itself. They won Game 1 behind 34 points from the dominance of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton on the boards, but it came at the expense of Paul’s health.
The Lakers quickly equalized the streak in Game 2, with Paul scoring just six points with five assists, before taking a 2-1 lead in Game 3, with the Phoenix point guard feeling the effects of his sound again. shoulder and seeming unable to drive, shoot and finish properly.
The player who never, ever loses his grip even started to spoil the dribble. Things weren’t going well.
Paul looked better with 18 points and nine assists in Game 3 to tie the series and since then the Suns haven’t looked back (although there were new shoulder fears in Game 5 ), earning five straight playoff victories with an average margin of 21 points.
Today, against the Denver Nuggets, he looks his best. And Paul’s Best is a top five point guard to ever play the game, in case you need to remind you.
In the first two games, which Phoenix won by 17 and 25 points respectively in a completely dominant fashion, Paul had 26 assists for a single turnover.
By comparison, MVP Nikola Jokic has nine assists on six turnovers. Yeah.
Of course, this helps Booker, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder to cut down shots to a decent clip, and therefore stretch the floor for each other, but it’s Paul’s methodical play that creates all of these. eyes wide open.
It is no coincidence that he is the only player in NBA history to have played three games of at least 15 assists on zero turnover, also doing so at three different eras with the Hornets. from New Orleans in 2008, the Clippers in 2014 and now the Suns.
Just to really hammer the point, Magic Johnson had two of those games. No one else in NBA history has had more than one.
With the exception of LeBron James, there’s always no one better to control the pace, flow, and tempo of a basketball game, especially in the fourth quarter.
When things started to look chaotic in Game 7 as the Lakers moved closer to 10, Paul hit two midrange buckets and threw a glorious pass to Bridges as the defense collapsed on him, leading to an easy three. Suddenly the lead came back to 17 again.
Against the Nuggets in Game 1, he threw an assist for Dario Saric, then managed to hit four straight shots, culminating in a three-point pullback that made the gap 16 and effectively put the game up. in bed, kissed him on the cheek and said “good night, sweet dreams”.
Game 2 was the same story, with two effortless back-to-back threes on defenders as well as a perfect 6-on-6 from the floor in the final period.
That’s the thing with Paul: he can take over when he needs it. Selflessly creating shots for others often gives way for a minute in the clutch when he grabs the ball, brings everyone calm down, and gets an easy basket or two. Usually at the exact moment he senses the other team is about to run away.
In short, there is no one on this earth that you would rather have fence games. Considering he now looks healthy, has a fantastic team and coach by his side, and has just completed one of the best seasons of his career (at 36 years old) , maybe that’s it. His best shot, his last shot, whatever you call it.
NBA Playoffs Live 18b: Phoenix @ Denver Gm3 11.06 2700
Saturday June 12 3:00 a.m.
He’s often opposed to great players when they don’t end their careers with a ring. Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing know this all too well. While this should never really be the case as circumstances play a far more important role than individual talent, Paul will go out of his way to make sure he is not added to this list. There will be no better circumstances than this to erase any potential asterisk.
Give him the ball and step aside. Let’s see what the point god can conjure up this time around on the floor with everything finally falling in his favor and in place.