Phoenix the fellas are on the way— Book (@DevinBook) July 1, 2021
The Phoenix Suns are heading to the NBA Finals after their 130-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Following what was an extremely chippy Game 6 at Staples Center, which included Patrick Beverley being ejected after shoving Chris Paul in the back after a stoppage in play during the fourth quarter, the Suns are Western Conference champions. Paul was masterful for Phoenix in the win as he finished the game with 41 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. On the other side, Paul George finished with 21 points for the Clippers but it was Marcus Morris Sr. who led Los Angeles in scoring with 26 points in the loss. Obviously, their efforts were not enough to keep the Clippers' playoff hopes alive.
With the win, Phoenix moves on to perform on the league's biggest stage against an opponent that has yet to be determined. Paul and the Suns will square off against either the Atlanta Hawks or the Milwaukee Bucks for the right to raise the Larry O'Brien Trophy once the Eastern Conference finals are decided.
Here are three takeaways from Phoenix's Game 6 win.
1. Suns in first Finals since 1993
Coming into this season, the Suns hadn't made the playoffs in over a decade, and hadn't even finished above .500 since 2014. When they acquired Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade in the offseason, they did so with ending that drought in mind. That was the primary goal, and it wasn't even a guarantee with such a deep Western Conference and the introduction of the play-in tournament.
Flash forward a few months, and they didn't just make they playoffs; they're the Western Conference champions and will advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993, and just the third time in franchise history. They'll play the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, who are currently tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference finals, and have hobbled stars.
Coincidentally that's been the trend for the Suns in these playoffs. Anthony Davis was injured in their first-round matchup with the Lakers, Jamal Murray didn't play for the Nuggets in the second round and the Clippers didn't have Kawhi Leonard for this series.
They won't care, however, and nor should they. After all, banners fly forever, and it's not like the Suns have been 100 percent for this run either. Paul hurt his shoulder in round one, and missed the first two games of the WCF after getting placed in the health and safety protocols. Speaking of...
2. CP3 finally breaks through
Chris Paul is one of the best point guards to ever play the game. That's been clear for years now, and will remain true regardless of what happens over the rest of his career. But for all his greatness and the countless accolades, it's impossible to ignore his lack of playoff success. Prior to this season, he'd only been to the conference finals once and had never made it to the Finals.
Now, at long last, he's broken through. He still has some work left to acquire his first ring, but after 16 seasons and five different teams, he's finally made the Finals. "Man, that sounds damn good," Paul said on the court after the series-clinching win on Wednesday night. "That sounds damn good."
After everything he's been through, both in his career and this postseason, Paul looked determined not to let another opportunity slip through his grasp. Late in the third quarter, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to cut the Suns' lead to just seven points. From that point on, Paul took over and flat-out dominated the game.
He went on a personal 8-0 run to end the quarter, and scored the next 14 points for the Suns to rebuild their big lead. Then he just kept on scoring to make sure the Clippers didn't even think about coming back. In the process he made Patrick Beverley so mad that the Clippers guard shoved him in the back during a timeout and got ejected.
All told, Paul finished with 41 points, four rebounds and eight assists on a stellar 16-for-24 from the field. That mark tied his playoff career-high, and was also the second-most in playoff history by a player 36 years or older. Afterwards, you could see just how much the moment meant to Paul, as he celebrated with Suns coach Monty Williams.
3. Clippers' resilient run comes to an end
Last month, when they lost the first two games of their first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks at home, the commentary about how this was the same old Clippers team started right up. After they blew a 3-1 lead in the second round last summer in the bubble, it seemed like they were on their way to another disappointing collapse. But this wasn't the same old Clippers. This team was different.
They won four out of five to close out the Mavericks. Then, after falling down 2-0 again in the second round against the Jazz, they ripped off four straight wins to send the No. 1 overall seed packing. And they did so despite losing Kawhi Leonard for good in Game 4 due to a knee injury, and being down by 25 points at home in Game 6. Even when they went down 2-0 for the third straight series they kept battling, and pushed the Western Conference finals to six games.
Eventually, shorthanded as they were, they just didn't have enough left in the tank to overcome the Suns. Paul George, who played over 100 more minutes than anyone else in the playoffs, was running on fumes, and they just couldn't bring the same level of defensive intensity anymore. They faded late in the second half of Game 6, and that was that.
But while the second year of the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era still didn't bring a title to Los Angeles, the Clippers have a lot to be proud of from this run. They showed incredible fortitude time and again, made the conference finals for the first time in franchise history and in many ways changed the perception of this group and the franchise as a whole.