After 1,090 regular season games and 123 postseason appearances Chris Paul is finally heading the NBA Finals.
Drafted with the 4th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, Paul has finally reached a long awaited goal in his 13th straight postseason appearance.
With that in mind, it was fitting that Paul delivered a vintage performance in the Game 6 clincher, with the veteran point guard hitting shot after shot on his way to a 41-point explosion on a typically efficient 16-for-24 from the field while also dishing out eight assists without committing a simple turnover.
31 of the 41 came in the second half, marking the biggest scoring second half of his entire career.
"I was just happy and proud of our team. Monty [Williams], not winning Coach of the Year but we know who he is, hell man, I experienced COVID just a week ago," Paul explained.
"I was here at home, I couldn't be there for my teammates and that's what you call next man up. They won two games in this series without me."
"It just shows you how crazy it is, in the first series I got the nerve thing, second series and end up with COVID, it's been a lot man and I just want it not just for myself but for everyone in that locker room."
𝐖𝐂𝐅 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐒! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/XhKWWkxF9y- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 1, 2021
With a long history of injuries sidelining him at the worst time, Paul has battled through the above mentioned shoulder injury against the Los Angeles Lakers and COVID to reach the pinnacle, while incredibly revealing he also suffered some ligament damage in his hand during the Conference Finals.
Despite all the bad luck marring his past, Paul was short and sharp when asked whether he lost faith in his ability to get to the Finals.
"No. Nope. I aint' built like that," Paul said with a smile.
While he has never advanced to this point in the playoffs before, Paul has proven himself to be a winner at every stop, with this run marking a third straight playoff appearance with a different franchise after stints with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Prior to that, Paul made six straight postseason runs with the Clippers.
The fact Paul got over the hump against his old team, in his old building wasn't lost on head coach Monty Williams, whos relationship with the point guard goes all the way back to their time together with the New Orleans Hornets.
"You just never think that you're going to have those opportunities. It's a bit of a sweet spot, we haven't won the championship that we want to win but to see it come together like this, for Chris to be able to come back here, Randy [Ayers] and I and Willie Green were with him in New Orleans," Williams said.
"He left, we stayed in contact, we were all still tight and for us to get back together again and do this, how do you put that into words?"
"I'm really happy for Chris because I see the work that he puts in. I see the care. You saw the tears after the game, you never know if you're going to be put in these positions and you watch guys get there three, four, five times, some people get there more than that."
What a performance... Chris Paul erupts for an #NBAPlayoffs career-high tying 41 PTS, including 31 in the 2nd half, as the @Suns win Game 6 and advance to the #NBAFinals presented by YouTube TV for the first time since 1993. #ThatsGame- NBA (@NBA) July 1, 2021
41 PTS | 16-24 FGM | 7 3PM | 8 AST pic.twitter.com/OiGaa0NGN2
With the Suns, Paul has formed a damaging partnership with Devin Booker, who added 22 points and seven rebounds of his own as he continues to deal with wearing a mask after suffering a broken nose early in the series.
"There's zero ego involved. I think that's the most important part. We both want to see each other succeed, we both want the team to succeed," Booker said of Paul.
"Whether he needs a ring, he's one of the best point guards to ever play the game. Everybody knows that. Arguably the best."
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