National Basketball Association

Chris Paul makes first NBA Finals of 16-year career as Phoenix Suns crush LA Clippers

July 1

For the first time in his 16-year career, "The Point God" will play in the NBA Finals.

Chris Paul had come painfully close on a number of occasions in his NBA career, but it took one of the most unlikely destinations ⁠— the Phoenix Suns, a team that hadn't made the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons ⁠— to finally get him over the hump.

Paul's road to the Finals ended in Los Angeles against a franchise with which he spent six seasons of his prime trying to get to the promised land, the LA Clippers.

In Wednesday's Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Clippers, Paul painted a masterpiece.

The 36-year-old went 16-for-24 from the field and 7-for-8 from distance to lead all scorers with 41 points. He also led the Suns in assists (eight) and steals (three) without committing a single turnover.

His 31 second-half points put his former franchise to bed and booked the Suns their first trip to the Finals since 1993.

Having played for five franchises in his career, Paul has made the postseason 13 times but never survived past the conference finals until now.

His career started with the then-New Orleans Hornets in 2005-06 before he joined the Clippers via trade for the 2010-11 season. After six seasons in LA, he was shipped to the Houston Rockets for two seasons before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a year.

Then, this offseason, Paul joined the Suns via yet another trade, and he guided Phoenix to a 51-21 record ⁠— second-best in the league ⁠— the season after the team finished 34-39.

Prior to this season with the Suns, the closest Paul had come to making the Finals was with the Rockets in 2018.

That team came within a game of making the Finals against the Golden State Warriors, taking a 3-2 lead through five games of the conference finals. However, a pulled hamstring in Game 5 kept Paul out of the final two games of the series, and the Warriors went on to win the title.

The following season, the Rockets ran into the vaunted Warriors dynasty again and lost 4-2 in the conference semis.

For a player widely considered one of the greatest point guards of all time, a Finals appearance was one of the few boxes left for Paul to check on his illustrious résumé.

He checked that box Wednesday, with a brilliant Game 6 performance and some major help from his teammates. In addition to Paul's 41 points, Devin Booker dropped 22, Jae Crowder added 19, and Deandre Ayton chipped in with 16.

The sports world was on hand to react to Paul finally reaching the Finals:

As Paul and the Suns were quick to say, though, the journey is far from over.

"We've still got a lot of work to do, but we're going to enjoy this," Paul said after the game.

While the accomplishment is worth celebrating, the ultimate prize of the Larry O'Brien trophy still awaits.

But for now, while the Suns wait to see if they'll face the Atlanta Hawks or Milwaukee Bucks out of the East, they can bask in Wednesday's win.

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