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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 30: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates with teammates Deandre Ayton #22 and Chris Paul #3 following the team’s series win against the LA Clippers in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center on June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo : Harry How/Getty Images)
The long wait is finally over for Chris Paul. The 36-year-old delivered a performance for the ages in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 4-2 series win and, in the process, grab his first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
Paul was simply spectacular in the 130-103 rout, scoring a playoff career-high 41 points in front of a packed crowd at the Staples Center. He did most of his damage in the second half, especially during the period when the Clippers sliced the deficit to just seven points after a 10-0 run.
CP3 steps up big time in the series clincher
Paul, the veteran that he is, responded with an 8-0 blast of his own that all but ended the Clippers’ run in these playoffs. He continued his assault in the final quarter, eventually finishing the second half with 30 points, the most he has scored in a half in his entire 16-year career.
Paul picked the perfect time to produce such a masterclass after struggling earlier on in the series. After missing the first two games of the Western Conference Finals due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, he delivered duds in his return in Games 3 and 4, shooting a combined 11-of-41 from the floor.
However, he was terrific in the series clincher, making 16 of his 24 field goal attempts, including going 7 of 8 from beyond the arc. Paul wasn’t only a scorer in this ballgame as he dished out eight assists in a marvelous all-around performance.
It wasn’t just Paul, though, who carried the scoring cudgels for the Suns in Game 6. Devin Booker chipped in 22 points of his own while Deandre Ayton registered yet another double-double with 16 points and 17 rebounds. Jae Crowder also contributed, scoring 19 points and grabbing five boards.
It’s just the third time that the Phoenix Suns have reached the Finals in their franchise history. They first made the finals back in 1976 when they lost in six games to the Boston Celtics. That series featured an epic 128-126 triple-overtime defeat for the Suns in Game 5.
They returned to the big dance in 1993 when Charles Barkley and the Suns squared off with Michael Jordan and the reigning champions Chicago Bulls. They pushed that series into a sixth game but lost in gut-wrenching fashion after John Paxson knocked down a game-winning three-pointer with seconds remaining.
Their next opponents are still unknown as the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks are still locked in a tight battle in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the series currently tied at two games apiece. One thing’s for certain, though, the long-suffering Phoenix faithful will be in attendance for Games 1 and 2 as the Suns will have homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals given their superior regular-season record over the Hawks and Bucks.
Clippers fall short in Finals bid
As for the Clippers, they can hold their heads up high after a fantastic showing in these playoffs. They’ve shown tremendous resiliency in this entire postseason run, recording improbable series wins against the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz after falling behind 0-2 in both of those matchups.
They tried to come back one more time against the Suns, but the injury to All-Star Kawhi Leonard was just too hard for them to overcome this time around.
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