Paul leads Phoenix Suns to NBA Finals

·3-min read

Chris Paul has led the Phoenix Suns into their first NBA Finals in 28 years, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 130-103 to close out the Western Conference finals in six games.

Paul scored 41 points as Devin Booker added 22 to send the Suns to their third finals appearance in franchise history.

They will face either the Atlanta Hawks or Milwaukee Bucks, who are tied 2-2 in the East finals.

Paul has reached the NBA Finals for the first time in his 16-year career on the same Staples Centre court where he helped bring the Clippers to respectability over six seasons that ended in 2017.

The 36-year-old guard punished his old team by tying his playoff career high of 41 - the same amount Paul George had in pushing the Clippers to a road win in Game 5.

"I'm just so happy for all the people around me, and the Clippers are my family too," Paul said on the court after the game. "These fans, Billy Crystal, that's my family. This is a team I have the utmost respect for, I'll always be a Clipper.

"But this group right here, this group right here," he said, gesturing at his Suns teammates wearing NBA Finals hats.

The Suns last made NBA Finals in 1993, when they were led by Charles Barkley and lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.

Their only other finals appearance was in 1976, a loss to the Boston Celtics in six games.

"This is what we set out to get tonight, so we didn't want to go back to Phoenix without it," Booker said.

Things got chippy in the fourth. Going into a timeout with 5:48 remaining, Paul stared at Patrick Beverley as he walked by. Beverley turned around and shoved Paul hard in the back, sending him to the floor. Beverley was ejected.

Marcus Morris led the Clippers with 26 points despite playing with a sore knee. George had 21 points and nine rebounds coming off his career playoff high that staved off elimination on the road and brought his team back home for another chance.

But the exhausted Clippers, who rallied from 0-2 series deficits in getting to the West finals for the first time in franchise history, had little left in the tank.

They were again without two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has been out with a right knee spain, and centre Ivica Zubac.

Paul dominated over the end of the third and well into the fourth. He hit three three-pointers in the final quarter, falling on his back and getting fouled on one of them.

The Suns stretched their lead to 17 points in the third, dulling the Staples Centre crowd. Five different players scored, highlighted by Jae Crowder's fifth three-pointer and Booker's dunk. Crowder finished with 19 points. Deandre Ayton added 16 points and 17 rebounds.

The Clippers briefly re-energised themselves and the fans with a 10-0 run that drew them to 89-82. Morris and Nicolas Batum each hit three-pointers.

But Paul closed on his own 8-0 run, including two three-pointers, that sent the Suns into the fourth leading 97-83.

It was all about the Suns thereafter.

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