Those who have no real rooting interest in the 2021 NBA Finals are pulling for Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul to finally break through with his first title.
The future Hall of Famer was brilliant during his first regular season with the Suns and has been putting on a show during the 2021 NBA playoffs.
With Phoenix up 2-1 against the Milwaukee Bucks heading into their road outing in Wisconsin Wednesday evening, the Suns could have taken a stranglehold on the series. A win here would’ve sent the Suns to a potential championship-clinching Game 5 outing in the Phoenix desert Saturday evening.
Devin Booker did his part for the Suns, scoring 42 points on 17-of-28 shooting. Unfortunately, it was Paul who laid an absolute egg in the biggest game of the 11-time All-Star’s career.
Paul, 36, connected on just 5-of-13 shots for 10 points while turning the ball over a whopping five times. He had multiple giveaways late in a game that was ripe for the Suns’ taking. It was about as ugly as it gets.
One particular play comes to mind. With Milwaukee leading by two and just over 30 seconds remaining, Paul saw Giannis Antetokounmpo strip him of the ball leading to a layup for the Bucks and pretty much the end of the game.
“When it gets to clutch time, 4th quarter, some people built for it. Some people shy away from it”-Chris Paul pic.twitter.com/C47Mcut9X3— RW (@0Westgod) July 15, 2021
A veteran with 16 seasons of NBA experience turning the ball over in that manner with the game on the line. It was brutal to watch.
Sure Paul dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the playoffs. His wrist seemed to be bothering him Wednesday evening. None of that is an excuse for shying away in the biggest game of his professional basketball career.
Over the course of the past three games, Paul has turned the ball over a whopping 15 times. Wednesday night alone, Phoenix had 17 giveaways — resulting in 24 points for the Bucks. This was the difference between a 3-1 series lead and the NBA Finals being nodded up at two heading back to the desert.
The ultimate professional, we’re not expecting Paul to simply waste away with Saturday night’s outing now being the biggest game of his professional career.
Another disastrous performance like we saw Wednesday would send the Suns to a 3-2 series deficit and potentially result in the first line of Paul’s bio being written.
“A star player who just couldn’t do it when it counted the most.”
We’ve seen these narratives thrown out when it comes to other legendary sports figures in the past. Both the NFL’s Dan Marino and Charles Barkley of NBA fame never won a championship. It’s a title that has followed them decades after their retirements from professional sports.
The objective observer in us does not want to see Paul’s legacy written this way. He’s been too good for too long to go down like this.
Unfortunately, Wednesday night’s outing against the Bucks showed us the worst that Paul has offered since entering the league as a young first-round pick back in 2005.
Phoenix had an 85-76 lead in the fourth quarter. Devin Booker was on absolute fire. The officials were seemingly on the Suns’ side throughout the evening. With all of that as a backdrop, Paul laid an egg in front of the entire NBA world.
It’s now up to CP3 to respond Saturday evening with the game of his life.