Los Angeles – Chris Paul erupted for 41 points to lead the Phoenix Suns into the NBA Finals with a series-clinching 130-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
The Suns — who squandered an opportunity to wrap up the Western Conference Finals at home on Monday — rebounded at the Staples Center with an emphatic win, taking the best-of-seven series 4-2.
Phoenix will face either the Milwaukee Bucks or Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Finals. The Suns reached the championship round for only the third time in franchise history, with their last trip to the finals coming in 1993.
The Suns failed to even reach the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons prior to this year.
Paul was the architect of the win, with the 36-year-old, 11-time NBA All-Star drawing on all of his experience to get Phoenix over the line.
The win means Paul will finally have the chance to shed his tag as one of the greatest players in NBA history to never win a championship.
Paul has never reached the NBA Finals in a 16-year career littered with near-misses.
“Damn this feels good,” said Paul, who joined the Suns last year from Oklahoma City. “It has a been a lot of work, going to a new team, everybody staying the course.
“Sixteen years of this, 16 years of surgeries, of hard work, of losses — bad losses. We’re going to enjoy tonight.
“I’m just so happy for all the people around me. To do it here against a team I have the utmost respect for — I’ll always be a Clipper. I love these fans.”
The Suns looked like they would cruise to the win after jumping out to a 17-point lead near the end of the third quarter.
The Clippers came roaring back with 10 unanswered points to cut the lead to seven, as Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer made the home fans into think another comeback was in the cards.
Paul took that as his cue to impose his will on the contest, rattling off eight straight point to give the Suns a 97-82 advantage.
A four-point play from Paul midway through the fourth quarter put the up by 19.
With Phoenix effectively bottling up Clippers star Paul George — the 41-point hero from game five — Los Angeles’ frustration mounted.
Another Paul three-pointer put the Suns ahead 118-92, and the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley boiled over — shoving the Suns veteran to the ground and promptly being ejected from the game.
Paul’s 41-point effort was backed with double-digit contributions from Devin Booker with 22 points, Jae Crowder with 19 points and Deandre Ayton with 16 points.
“When we channel our energy the right way we can make big things happen like tonight,” Booker said afterwards.
“This is what we set out to get tonight. We didn’t want to go back to Phoenix without the trophy. We didn’t want a Game 7. We wanted to get it done tonight.”
Marcus Morris Sr. led the Clippers with 26 points while George added 21.
The Clippers had been battling against the odds throughout the playoffs, losing both Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka to injuries.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue declined to speculate on what might have been with a healthy roster.
“There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s part of the game,” Lue said. “Our team shows a lot of character. We’re down. No pointing fingers, we’re sticking together.”
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