For Suns star Chris Paul, this NBA Finals loss will sting greater than earlier playoff defeats

“On the finish of the day, I all the time say, no one cares about your story except you win it.”

That is what Suns star Chris Paul instructed ESPN’s Rachel Nichols forward of Recreation 5 of the NBA Finals. That assertion, frankly, simply is not true. With all due respect to seven-time champion Robert Horry, Allen Iverson’s affect on the league far exceeds that of “Large Shot Bob.”

It does present a window into Paul’s thoughts, nevertheless, and explains why the Suns’ Recreation 6 loss to the Bucks is one which he will not quickly neglect. After Phoenix went up 2-0 to begin the sequence, Milwaukee received 4 consecutive video games to seize the 2021 NBA championship. Tuesday night time marked the fourth time a Paul-led group has blown a 2-0 benefit in a best-of-seven sequence.

These earlier playoff failures require context, in fact, particularly with regards to sequence through which Paul or one other key teammate missed time with an damage. However that is additionally what makes the tip of this specific postseason run so painful.

MORE: Antetokounmpo’s Recreation 6 efficiency had NBA world buzzing

Paul and the Suns obtained some fortunate breaks as they navigated by the Western Convention playoff bracket. Every of Phoenix’s opponents misplaced a key participant both earlier than or through the postseason: the Lakers and Anthony Davis, the Nuggets and Jamal Murray and the Clippers and Kawhi Leonard. Sure, Paul handled some well being points, together with a COVID-19 analysis that took him out of the primary two video games of the Western Convention finals, however the Suns entered the NBA Finals comparatively unscathed.

With Phoenix within the driver’s seat by two video games, the sequence seemed to be turning right into a Paul coronation. He was two wins away from taking his place among the many legends of the game and elevating himself within the biggest level guards of all time dialogue.

However then Giannis Antetokounmpo occurred. And Khris Middleton occurred. And Jrue Vacation occurred. And Paul regarded like a shell of himself in Recreation 4. Instantly the dream become a nightmare, leaving Paul blankly gazing reporters after yet one more heartbreaker.

“I imply, I am going to take a while to consider [my first season in Phoenix], however proper now you are simply making an attempt to determine what you would have did extra. It is robust,” Paul mentioned. “Nice group of fellows, hell of a season, however this one goes to harm for some time.”

In case there have been any doubts, Paul, at age 36, has no plans to retire. He did not have any direct solutions about how he’ll deal with his $44.2 million participant choice this summer season, however it could be stunning if he leaves the Suns in free company contemplating they will provide him a profitable contract and an opportunity to compete for that elusive ring. His shortcomings within the NBA Finals should not overshadow how a lot he meant to Phoenix this season. Reaching an settlement is in the most effective curiosity of either side.

“In every single place he is gone, the group has received. They’ve improved,” Suns coach Monty Williams mentioned. “He is been shut. He was an damage away from getting right here earlier than, however he together with [Devin Booker], to guide a group that is by no means been there so far says rather a lot about their expertise, their dedication, the desire to win.”

And but, someplace deep down, Paul should be questioning if his finest alternative to win a title simply flew proper by him. The West will likely be loaded once more subsequent season, and the Bucks and Nets will likely be looming massive within the East. Paul is aware of higher than most simply how shortly a group may be shoved out of the championship image.

In the end, Paul’s place in basketball historical past will not be erased if he by no means ends a season with a victory, regardless of what he might inform you. As Williams mentioned, he’s an “all-time nice” and a future Corridor of Famer.

However Paul is effectively conscious that he solely has so a few years left in his profession, and he is nonetheless chasing his storybook ending.

“Everyone in that locker room is aware of we had sufficient, but it surely wasn’t sufficient,” Paul mentioned. “So, we obtained to determine it out. I feel for me I simply have a look at myself and work out how can I get higher, what I might have finished extra and ensure I come again subsequent season able to do it once more.”

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