For Suns star Chris Paul, this NBA Finals loss will sting more than previous playoff losses

“At the end of the day, I always say no one cares about your story unless you win it.”

That’s what Suns star Chris Paul told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols ahead of Game 5 of the NBA Finals. This statement, frankly, is just not true. With all due respect to seven-time champion Robert Horry, Allen Iverson’s influence in the league far exceeds that of “Big Shot Bob”.

However, it opens a window into Paul’s mind and explains why the Suns’ Game 6 loss to the Bucks is one he won’t soon forget. After Phoenix rose 2-0 to start the series, Milwaukee won four straight games to win the 2021 NBA Championship. Tuesday night marked the fourth time a team led by Paul took a 2-0 advantage in a series. best of seven.

These previous playoff failures of course require context, especially when it comes to playoffs where Paul or another key teammate ran out of time due to injury. But that’s also what makes the end of these playoffs so painful.

MORE: Antetokounmpo’s Game 6 performance rocked the NBA world

Paul and the Suns got lucky as they sailed through the Western Conference playoffs. Each of Phoenix’s opponents have lost a key player before or during the playoffs: the Lakers and Anthony Davis, the Nuggets and Jamal Murray, and the Clippers and Kawhi Leonard. Yes, Paul has dealt with some health issues, including a diagnosis of COVID-19 that took him out of the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, but the Suns entered the NBA Finals relatively unscathed.

With Phoenix in charge of two games, the series seemed to turn into a crowning glory for Paul. He was two wins away from taking his place among the legends of the sport and becoming one of the greatest playmakers of all time.

But then Giannis Antetokounmpo arrived. And Khris Middleton has arrived. And Jrue Holiday has arrived. And Paul looked like a shell of himself in Game 4. Suddenly the dream turned into a nightmare, leaving Paul staring blankly at reporters after another heartbreak.

“I mean, I’m going to take some time to think about [my first season in Phoenix], but right now you’re just trying to figure out what more you could have done. It’s tough, “said Paul.” Great group of guys, one hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while. “

In case there are any doubts, Paul, at 36, does not intend to retire. He hasn’t had direct answers on how he will handle his $ 44.2million player option this summer, but it would be surprising if he left the Suns in free agency given they can offer him a lucrative contract and a chance to compete for that elusive ring. His shortcomings in the NBA Finals shouldn’t obscure how much he meant to Phoenix this season. Reaching an agreement is in the best interests of both parties.

“Everywhere he went, the team won. They got better,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “He was close. He was one wound away from being here before, but him with [Devin Booker], leading a team that has never been there until now says a lot about his talent, his dedication, his will to win. “

And yet, somewhere deep inside, Paul must be wondering if his best opportunity to win a title has come from missing him. The West will be loaded again next season, and the Bucks and Nets will be looming on the horizon in the East. Paul knows better than anyone how quickly a team can be kicked off the league table.

Ultimately, Paul’s place in basketball history won’t be erased if he never ends a season with a win, despite what he can tell you. As Williams put it, he’s an “all-time great” and a future Hall of Famer.

But Paul is well aware that he only has a few years left in his career, and he’s still chasing the end of his storybook.

“Everyone in this locker room knows we’ve had enough, but it wasn’t enough,” said Paul. “So we have to figure that out. I think for me I’m looking at myself and wondering how I can improve, what more I could have done and make sure I come back next season ready to do it. again. “

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