Point guard Chris Paul hugs Suns head coach Monty Williams during tonight’s match. Photo from NBA.
By Terrance Turner
June 30, 2021
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns are headed to the NBA Finals. They dominated the Los Angeles Clippers in a hard-fought game that often got physical. Despite hard fouls and a late shoving match, the Suns overcame a valiant Clippers effort to reach the Finals for the first time since 1993.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Suns got out to a 15-9 lead with 6:44 to go in the first quarter thanks to 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including making all three 3-pointers. Point guard Chris Paul led the charge, hitting two 3-pointers and notching two assists. For the Clippers, it was Patrick Beverley doing the scoring. He had seven of the Clippers’ first nine points and had yet to miss a shot.
Also notable in the first quarter was DeMarcus Cousins, who hit two three-pointers including a buzzer-beater. But at the end of the first quarter, the Suns led 33-29. They were 14 of 22 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton combined for 25 points.
That Phoenix lead swelled to 10 in the second quarter. But the Clippers weren’t giving up. Beverley skillfully outplayed Paul midway through. Beverley crossed up Paul, drove past him, and then made the basket in a highlight-reel play:
With four minutes left, LA trailed Phoenix by just one. But the Suns retained their lead. Phoenix led the Clippers by nine points at halftime of Game 6 behind a balanced scoring effort that has seen four starters reach double figures. Small forward Jae Crowder led the Suns scorers with 16 points, according to the LA Times. And their big three — Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton — had 14, 10 and 10, respectively. The Suns led 66-57 at halftime.
Towards the end of the third quarter, the Suns led 89-72 with 4:01 to go in the third quarter. It looked bad for LA. But the Clippers fought back. Just when the Suns seemed on pace for a blowout, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run and center Nicolas Batum just hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to seven. It was 89-82 with 1:42 to go in the third quarter. But then a wide-open Chris Paul hit a three to put the lead back up to 10. It would prove to be a game-changing shot.
And so would the next one. After Paul scored another basket and moved under the hoop, DeMarcus Cousins got the rebound and moved forward. Cousins’ elbow hit Paul’s neck and shoulder as Cousins moved by him. Paul dramatically fell to the ground, flopping so badly that even analyst Steve Javi commended Paul for his “great acting job”.
Cousins was called for a technical foul (after yet another endless referee review). But Paul rebounded with a layup and back to back jumpers. Now it was 105-85.
Clippers forward Marcus Morris answered with a three. Then Morris was fouled and hits back to back free throws. Now 105-90. 8:30 remaining. Booker drove inside and scored to make it 107-85. Paul George answered with a pull-up jumper. Then Chris Paul hit a three-pointer and drew the foul. He made it a four-point play by making the free throw. It was 111-92. DeAndre Ayton added two more points with a basket of his own.
With the score 113-92, it was the Suns’ largest lead of the game. But would it hold? Paul scored two and three, padding the Phoenix lead to 26. The Suns had blown it open in the fourth. With his team down bad, Patrick Beverly lost control, shoving Paul after a play.
Beverley was ejected. The game continued. With just 2:20 remaining and the score 121-100, Paul hit the dagger with yet another three-pointer. It was the final blow in a game that was already all but over. The Suns won, 130-103. They win the series, 4 games to 2.
Chris Paul had beaten his old team to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in his 16-year career. He got emotional after the match. “I’m just so happy for the people around me,” he said in a postgame interview.
Paul noted that he played “six hard years” for the Clippers. “I’ll always be a Clipper,” he declared. “But this group right here…” he trailed off, indicating his Phoenix team. When asked what made him choose to play for Phoenix, Paul answered, “This light skin boy right here. Devin Booker — he’s a dog.”
Booker scored 22 points in tonight’s rout of the Clippers. Paul scored 41 (including 31 in the second half — a career high). Now these two powerhouse players (and their team) have a chance to contend for an NBA Championship.