Until the NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns had not lost more than two straight games this postseason. They had never been on the verge of losing a series in the Western Conference, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in Round 1, sweeping the Denver Nuggets 4-0 in the conference semifinals, then ending the Los Angeles Clippers season with a 4-2 win in the conference finals.
The Bucks presented a different set of problems. Starting with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was unstoppable during the Finals and capped it off with 50 points and 14 rebounds in the series-clinching game on Tuesday night, lifting the Bucks to a 105-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The Bucks’ 4-2 series victory was Milwaukee’s first championship since 1971. It also denied future Hall of Famer Chris Paul a chance to win his first NBA title.
The Suns had every opportunity to push the series to seven games, maybe even win it, but didn’t have the quality depth to match the Bucks, specifically Antetokounmpo. Chris Paul led the Suns with 26 points, 5 assists, and that wasn’t enough to secure a Game 7.
Paul, 36, playing in his 16th season, signed with Phoenix in November of last year, his fifth NBA team. He was the missing piece added to a talented young core led by guard Devin Booker and helped lead them to the second-best record in the league in the regular season and the Western Conference championship. But he was inconsistent in six games versus the Bucks.
Yet on Tuesday he was the Suns’ best player, scoring 26 points on 11-19 shooting. But the Bucks size, physicality and intense defense was too much for the Suns to overcome. Booker was held to 19 points on 8-22 from the field and 0-7 on threes.
Paul was a sentimental favorite to win a title and remove himself from the list of greatest players never to win a championship. It’s the furthest he has gone into the postseason, having previously never reached the Finals.
“It will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s [the] same mentality,” Paul said after the disappointing loss. Get back to work I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s out. So, back to work…
“Right now, you’re just trying to figure out what you could have done more,” he added. “It’s tough. Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while.”
Another season, another missed opportunity,