Paul exorcises playoff demons with Suns en route to first Finals

The Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers 130-103 and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 with a 4-2 series win.

The drought in the desert is over.

The Phoenix Suns are heading to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 after dominating the Los Angeles Clippers 130-103 on Wednesday night. With both teams chasing their first-ever championship, the Suns prevailed in six games.

The Suns eliminated the Clippers in Staples Center after clinching their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center. No team has ever before clinched multiple playoff series in the same road building in a single NBA post-season.

The Suns improve to 12-4 in the playoffs and 6-2 on the road.

The Suns were not in the playoffs in the last 10 years and now they’re heading to the NBA Finals. This will be their third NBA Finals appearance after they were there in 1976 and 1993.

Here are the biggest takeaways after Game 6:

Star Suns

The Suns' best players were their best players to close it out. Chris Paul put up 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting along with eight assists. Devin Booker chipped in with 22 points and Deandre Ayton was a beast inside with a 16-point, 17-rebound double-double.

The 27-point win came because the Suns shot the ball so efficiently, hitting 56.4 per cent from the field and 17-of-31 from three-point range.

CP3 needs four more

For Paul, his fifth NBA team is the charm.

Paul is making his first NBA Finals in his 16th pro year at age 36. He did it by going through the team he played for six years. Paul was third on the all-time list for most playoff games without a Finals appearance with 123, behind only Al Horford (124) and Paul Millsap (129). Paul was known for having the most points, all-star selections and All-NBA selections by any player to not appear in an NBA Finals. But those streaks are now over.

Paul has had so many playoff runs end due to injury that it seemed he was cursed and it would never happen. Now he’s in the Finals, beating the Clippers without their star Kawhi Leonard, and awaiting two Eastern Conference teams currently with injured stars. In Game 1 of the playoffs, Paul injured his right shoulder but battled through it. He missed the first two games of the Conference Finals after he tested positive for COVID-19. But none of that matters now as he’s added another stellar performance to his Hall of Fame resume. That resume includes 11 all-star appearances, 10 All-NBA team selections, nine All-NBA Defensive Team honours, he's led the NBA in assists four times and steals six times, and won two Olympic gold medals.

Point God

With 41 points, 31 of them in the second half, Paul was the best player on the floor throughout the night and the happiest after the final whistle. After also scoring 37 in the series-clinching game against the Denver Nuggets, he is now the oldest player in post-season history with 35 points in consecutive close-out games. The next oldest is Michael Jordan, who did it at 33 years old.

The 41 points tied his playoff career-high and is the second-most in a playoff game by a player age 36 or older in NBA history. The best part of his stat line is that he had zero turnovers in an elimination game.

Patrick Beverley Ejection

Four years ago this week, Paul forced a sign and trade from the Clippers to the Houston Rockets. There is one player left on the Clippers from that trade, Patrick Beverley.

Beverley was the only Clipper with a positive plus-minus in the first half Wednesday, but he left the game on a negative note after taking a cheap shot out of frustration directed at Paul for taking over the game.

Clipper Letdown

This is a tough loss for the Clippers on their home floor after going 5-1 at the Staples Center in their last six games. There were some positives to take away from this season, however, In Ty Lue’s first year, they certainly showed the character to fight back in dire situations. They were down 3-2 on the road against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round and were facing elimination against the Utah Jazz, trailing 22 at half at home. They came back to win both games and won both series. The injuries to rotation players just became too much to overcome. Ivica Zubac was out for Game Six with a sprained MCL, Serge Ibaka was already done for the year and Leonard was ruled out for at least the rest of the series. With Leonard having the ability to opt out, the off-season intrigue builds for Los Angeles after falling short of the Finals once again in the Steve Balmer ownership era.

Next Up

The Suns will play either the Milwaukee Bucks or Atlanta Hawks, who are tied at two in their Eastern Conference Finals series. The Suns will have home-court advantage in the NBA Finals no matter who they face.

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