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Chris Paul – the career of bad faith but its time for a broken curse

Baseline Times Summer 2021 – Summer Intern Adam Kinberg shares his thoughts on Chris Paul’s best championship run this year.

Chris Paul is one of the greatest point guards of all time. His spectacular point guard skills and unmatched basketball IQ elevate every team he has ever played for. With his Phoenix Suns team making the Western Conference Finals, this is all the more apparent. He has been counted out time and time again. Fans and media members alike said that he was “too old” and “didn’t have it anymore. He is proving all the doubters wrong.

The Phoenix influence

Paul, at the age of 36 has elevated his team like no other player in the league. He has raised the Suns from a perennial bottom-dweller in the west to a bonafide contender. Out of the final four teams currently left in the playoffs, Paul stands as the best point guard remaining in the playoffs. His dazzling performance against the Lakers and Nuggets showed the NBA that the Suns are not just a young and up incoming team just happy to be in the playoffs. Paul showed that he can uplift a team no matter what the circumstance may be.

The guiding factor of winning

Not only has Paul done this with the Thunder and Suns, but with the Rockets and Clippers as well. The Clippers were a team marred by organization dysfunction and an ownership scandal. The Rockets were one win away from the NBA finals until Paul was injured. Both of those teams were uplifted by the presence of Paul. The failure to win a championship in both of those situations came down to factors that were out of Paul’s control. Take his performance in the 2019-20 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder as evidence. That Thunder team was projected to be one of the worst in the league. Despite this, Paul turned them into a playoff team. The leadership and skill that Paul provided boosted his teammates and turned that team into something special.

Paul now has the opportunity to win his first NBA championship. A career scared by missed opportunities now has the chance to become a feel-good comeback story. Paul is not washed nor is he too old to make major contributions on a championship-level team. He is an elite point guard in a league that values three-point shooting and athleticism over basketball IQ and fundamentals. Paul has found the perfect opportunity with a co-star in Devin Booker. It is time for Paul to prove everyone wrong. It is time for the Suns to win their first NBA title.

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2021 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers

West Conference Semifinals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

The luxury of a sweep is sitting around and enjoying who gets to run themselves down for the next round. In this case, it’s even better the NBA is scheduling the Western Conference Finals to start less than 48 hours for a MIDDAY matinee from when the Clippers last played? The Suns should rightfully earn the respect of being favored in almost every moment here on out (fully healthy of course). They survived the defending champs Los Angeles Lakers (at the expense of Anthony Davis’ injury). They spoiled Nikola Jokić’s MVP year and swept him out of the playoffs. Chris Paul’s legacy gets a positive boost while the world is finally getting to see how good Devin Booker really is.

Now the bad news for Phoenix. Paul’s status for Game 1 remains up in the air due to health and safety protocol. It is assumed he is the only player who tested positive for COVID-19 since the NBA reported last week. There is no real indication of CP3’s turnaround time to return back to the court. Due to the fact the NBA is scheduling the series to start as quickly as possible, this gives Phoenix no leeway in buying more days for Paul to be in the lineup for Game 1. Assuming that once the mandatory quarantine period has passed, Paul should be available for the series in the later parts should the series go longer than 4 games.

What favors Phoenix is that they have proven so far teams led by star players without much of a supporting cast aren’t an issue (see LeBron without Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokić without Jamal Murray). The luck of the draw not facing teams at their best? Ok ok, I like to give credit where it’s due, and Phoenix still flexed pretty hard in those games instead of folding under pressure when the opposition made runs.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers

Most people figured at this rate we would FINALLY see the battle of LA? The Lakers vs the Clippers, Kawhi, and PG13 vs LeBron and AD. What a let down right? In all fairness, no matter how you feel about the Clippers they’ve worked themselves into the Western Conference Finals. Finding out the news mid-series that Kawhi Leonard is officially out with a knee injury is devastating news if you’re a Clippers fan. The worse part is that the news is feared to be an ACL injury and he’s out indefinitely.

Maybe another man can save the Clippers’ season? That man is Terance Mann. I spoke about him in the preview of the Semifinals series slowly emerging with his extended minutes. But let’s be real, did anyone see a Terance Mann scoring 39 points in a close-out game against the UTAH JAZZ? Probably not right? Credit is due and man, quite frankly he had one of the best jerseys in the NBA bubble last season. His jersey phrase was “I Am A Man”, followed by his surname, Mann.

Anyways, back to gloating but Mr. Mann clearly loves close-out games because he becomes better and better each time. In Game 7 against Dallas, he scored 13 points on 50-percent shooting. A whole series later he’s dropping 39 points on 71-percent shooting in Game 6?!? Since Game 1 against Dallas in the first round, Mann’s production is quickly rising as more minutes become available to him. Here is the baffling part. Before Game 6 against the Jazz, Mann had only taken 13 three-point field goals the entire playoffs and connected on four of them. All of a sudden in Game 6 he takes 10 and knocks down seven of those attempts? Overall, he’s shooting 54-percent from the field in the entire 2021 Playoffs.

Top players to watch

Devin Booker – 2021 Playoffs

  • 27.9 PPG
  • 6.8 RPG
  • 4.8 APG

Paul George – 2021 Playoffs

  • 26.1 PPG
  • 9.2 RPG
  • 5.3 APG

Where should the money go?

It almost feels like we have to put a disclaimer here should an injury occur in this series at some point. It is unfortunate that the Playoffs have resulted in some top All-Star players injured and of no availability.

Los Angeles’ defense will have to consistently be aware of the shooters like Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder. That means Terance Mann, Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Nicolas Batum have some work to do. Should Chris Paul be out for Game 1 this favors the Clippers as some of these Suns players reap the benefits of a playmaker like Paul setting them up.

The Clippers are also at a disadvantage when it comes to size. DeAndre Ayton sits down in the paint for the Suns and continues to show as a 22-year old former 1st pick in the 2018 Draft that he’s ready for the big moments. His last two series saw parts of Anthony Davis and directly matching up against the NBA’s MVP this year, Jokić.

However, Ty Lue found a way to beat the league’s best big man on the defensive end, Rudy Gobert. Can the small ball continue to be successful for the Clippers? At times Paul George and Nicolas Batum listed at 6’8 each would be the tallest players on the floor for the Clippers. Can they alienate Ayton away from the floor and force Monty Williams to go small as well? We are either in for a battle of the role players and Booker against George, Mann, and their role players.

This is where I worry for the Clippers as the Suns have the next-man-up mentality too. Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Torrey Craig, and Dario Saric all make up the bench players that Monty Williams has in his bench rotation. It’s almost daring for the Clippers to go small because the Suns have the depth to combat any type of lineup they may face. My other concern for the Clippers is the fatigue (but we could argue Phonix being rusty especially without Paul early in the series). I haven’t even touched on Devin Booker but quite frankly unless PG13 gives us a series to remember the advantage works in Booker’s favor.

With that being said, the Phoenix Suns are going to the 2021 NBA Finals in 6 Games!

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHX leads series 1-0

6/20

3:30 PM ET

ABC

Clippers - 114
Suns - 120

Game 2:
PHX leads series 2-0

6/22

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers - 103
Suns - 104

Game 3: PHX leads series 2-1


6/24

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 92 Clippers - 106

Game 4:
PHX leads series 3-1

6/26

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 84
 Clippers - 80

Game 5:
PHX leads series 3-2

6/28

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers - 116
Suns - 102

Game 6:
PHX wins series 4-2

6/30

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 130
 Clippers - 103

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West Conference Semifinals – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Denver Nuggets

West Conference Semifinals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Denver Nuggets – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

Well despite being called an “underdog” as the 2nd seed in the Western Conference and having to hear that the Lakers are poised for a strong championship defensive run the Suns are here. Devin Booker who should be considered Phoenix’s best player is a huge reason why. Defensively, the Suns got a break in not having to see Anthony Davis for a game and a half. However, credit is due where it is deserved because the Suns defense seems to be peaking at the right time.

Chris Paul the motor of the Suns and Booker is the star ready to excel his team to the next level. On the defensive side for Denver, there is a little bit better size in Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon to defend Booker. I’d imagine that JaMychal Green and if Michael Malone needs Shaquille Harrison are deep into the bench for additional reinforcements. However, I’m riding with the hot hand here and trusting that Booker has learned a thing or two now that he’s won a playoff series. Still advantage Phoenix that Booker isn’t done.

Where the Suns might struggle is obviously defending Nikola Jokic. In Denver’s first-round series against Portland, Jokic changed his game slightly to be more of a scorer. In six games he averaged 33 points a game while only averaging 4.5 assists per game. His regular-season averages were 26.4 points per game and 8.3 assists per game. This might not even mean anything but the fact that if Phoenix decides to double team Jokic, he’s already kind of a good passer? DeAndre Ayton could make a huge case here should he be able to go down the line of the West’s best big men and defeat them.

(3) Denver Nuggets

Now if you really have been following along with my previews I think I hit the nail on the head here. First, the Nuggets needed much support from their backcourt of Monte Morris, Facundo Campazzo, and Austin Rivers. Now, I did say that Rivers would be an underrated pick-up in that Denver-Portland preview. Sure enough, hitting clutch shots and having veteran IQ on defending Damian Lillard.

Second, I also have mentioned that to me Jamal Murray is a great player I really like. BUT I think his game isn’t too hard to replace as a scoring guard. Monte Morris comes into this series and averages 15.3 points per game, 5.8 assists per game, and shooting the ball 44-percent from the field this Playoffs. Now that’s no way in hell close to Jamal Murray’s playoffs series last year against the Jazz in the first round. However, in Game 6 Morris’ 22 points, 9 assists, and 50-percent shooting from the field was a key part of closing out the series. I like to see signs of how teams and certain players react to close out games. If Morris is that motivated he’s going to need to take that up a notch with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, and Mikal Bridges on the other end. Another big challenge against another big star in the Western Conference.

Lastly, I think the Nuggets adjust so well to the loss of Murray and understand with a playmaker like Jokic they’ll have to work a little harder on offense. However, it’s a game of sharing the wealth for them. Against Portland, Michael Porter Jr. averaged 18.8 points per game, Aaron Gordon averaged 12.5 points per game, and Austin Rivers averaged 11.5 points per game playing more than Campazzo in the series. Denver’s success in this series relies heavily upon how their backcourt will combat Booker and Paul’s attempts to blow open the scoring punch from themselves or assisting others.

Top players to watch

Devin Booker – First Round vs Los Angeles Lakers

  • 29.7 PPG
  • 6.2 RPG
  • 5.0 APG

Nikola Jokic – First Round vs Portland

  • 33.0 PPG
  • 10.5 RPG
  • 4.5 APG

Where should the money go?

DENVER IN 6 for me. I may be slightly salty that the Suns put an end to maybe another historic LeBron James playoff run but I’m here for this series. This should be one of the most entertaining series in terms of passing and hopefully shooting. Both teams have solid three-point shooters and arguably top 3 of the 5 best playmakers actively in the NBA right now (Jokic & Paul).

The interesting part here is that the chess match of a series could boil down to a few scenarios. Both teams could play to their defensive strengths and really make this series a chess match. How well does Ayton adapt to playing more on the perimeter against Jokic? Unless you plan to throw Cameron Johnson or Dario Saric at him. The strategic playmaking skills of Nikola Jokic and Chris Paul combined with role players thriving is a series that could also end up in high-scoring affairs. I’d take anything over 218 or more for this series.

I have a hard time imagining that the Nuggets will drop one by 30 points like the Los Angeles Lakers did against Phoenix in the first round. For the most part, these games should be closer in terms of the spread. Phoenix seems to have no problem often covering any favorable spread of 6 or more points.

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:

PHX leads series 1-0

6/07

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 105

Suns -122

Game 2:

PHX leads series 2-0

6/09

9:30 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 98 Suns - 123

Game 3:
PHX leads series 3-0

6/11

10:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 113
Nuggets - 102


Game 4:
PHX wins series 4-0

6/13

8:00 PM ET

TNT

Suns - 125
Nuggets - 118

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West First Round – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHX leads 1-0

5/23/21

3:30 PM EST

ABC

Lakers - 90
Suns - 99

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

5/25/21

10:00 PM EST

TNT

Lakers - 109
Suns - 102

Game 3:
LAL leads 2-1


5/27/21

10:00 PM EST

TNT

Suns - 95
Lakers - 109

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

5/30/21


3:30 PM EST

ABC

Suns - 100
Lakers - 92

Game 5:
PHX leads 3-2

6/1/21

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Lakers - 85
Suns - 115

Game 6:
PHX wins series 4-2

6/3/21

10:30 PM ET

TNT

Suns - 113
Lakers - 100

Game 5 Notes:

Where should the money go?

West First Round – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

For the first time ever LeBron James will Chris Paul in a playoffs series. The strange part of this is that Suns perhaps are going to be the underdogs as a higher seed. It always seems like Paul is on the bad end of the stick in terms of the path to a championship. The last time he was remotely close was in 2017-2018 for the Houston Rockets, however, sat out Game 6 and 7 against the Warriors to watch his team lose in the Western Conference Finals.

Next, the Suns are also a team that deserves its respect and admiration for competing this season. Securing the 2nd seed in the Western Conference isn’t always as easy for the entire season. Devin Booker is arguably the Suns best player averaging 25.6 points per game on 48-percent shooting.

What the Suns would have to do to complete a successful series is find a way to stabilize Anthony Davis. Quite frankly their roster says DeAndre Ayton, Frank Kaminsky, and Dario Šarić? This is their biggest disadvantage coming into the series and should be highlighted as to why they’re underdogs.

(7) Los Angeles Lakers

Bring on the doubt, questioning Lebron’s ankle, and Anthony Davis’ health. That’s what came out of the 2021 Play-in Tournament game from last week Wednesday against the Warriors. It was a Lebron James three-point field goal that sealed the deal on the 7th seed for the Lakers. In hindsight, the Warriors aren’t even headed to the Playoffs after losing Game 6 of the Play-in Tournament.

This Los Angeles team may have a few moments of rust, growing pains, or whatever you wanted to call them. This is a team and a series that the regular season will hold no bearing during the playoffs. The Warriors once led the Lakers by 13 in the Play-in Game 4 but the 1st and 2nd half of the game was different for the Lakers. Los Angeles shot 33-percent from the field in the first half and 49-percent in the second half.

Let’s face it, any team expecting back a healthy James and Davis should be heavily favored in the Western Conference. Are the Lakers going to sweep? Probably not. However, this is a better series for them instead of losing the Play-in games and seeing Utah in the first round.



Top players to watch

Chris Paul: 2020-2021 season

  • 16.4 PPG
  • 4.5 RPG
  • 8.9 APG

LeBron James: 2020-2021 season

  • 25.0 PPG
  • 7.7 RPG
  • 7.8 APG

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