Suns point guard Chris Paul season came to an end for the second year in a row after his club failed to defend a 2-0 series lead en route to a sad NBA playoff loss.
And, for the second year in a row, Chris Paul felt forced to say that despite the tragedy, he had no plans to retire from the game.
“If you play long enough and don’t win, they’ll say it was your best shot,” Chris Paul said after the Suns’ 123-90 loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. “But I think we’ll be right back next year for me and us.” That much I can tell you.
“Thank God, I’m not retiring tomorrow.” Hopefully, I’ll be healthy when I return. But I’m still going to play.”
The outcome of the series paralleled Paul’s performance for the Suns. Phoenix took a 2-0 lead as he averaged 23.5 points and only two turnovers in the first two games, including a brilliant 14-point fourth quarter in Game 2. He averaged 9.4 points and 3.6 turnovers in his past five games, all of which occurred after his 37th birthday on May 6. Phoenix lost four of its last five games, falling in a similar way to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals, when two wins were followed by four defeats.
Chris Paul was unproductive on Sunday, ending with 10 points and four assists but not hitting his first field goal until the third quarter, when the Suns were already down 40 points. he literally staggered to the finish line due to a left quad problem that hampered his movement.
While Suns coach Monty Williams accepted responsibility for the loss after leading Phoenix to a franchise-record 64 wins in the regular season and the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs, Chris Paul refused.
“I think we simply didn’t have enough,” Chris Paul said after the Suns’ 30-point halftime deficit, which according to Information data was the greatest halftime difference in Game 7 history. “That, I believe, is on Mont, but as the point guard and team leader, I believe it is on me. Come out and make sure you’re getting the best shots possible.”
Luka Doncic of the Mavericks kept pace with the Suns in the first half, scoring 27 points to match Phoenix’s total of 27. Dallas led 57-27 at halftime and extended its lead to 46 points in the fourth quarter, the largest margin in a Game 7 ever.
While Paul’s plus-minus for the regular season and playoffs combined was the lowest of his 17-year career (the Suns were outscored by 39 in the 31 minutes he played), his teammates weren’t much better. Devin Booker, Phoenix’s only All-Star this season besides Paul, scored 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting, well below his average of 26.5 points per game in the previous two postseasons.
Booker noted, “They did an excellent job of getting the ball out of my hands and trapping every action.