The addition of 36-year old Chris Paul has been tremendous for the Phoenix Suns this season. They grabbed the #2 seed in the western conference and are now headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in 28 years. This will be the first finals appearance for Chris Paul and the young duo of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
The Western Conference champs have arrived in Phoenix! ☀️
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 1, 2021
Although the Suns proved that they have the right to be considered legitimate contenders throughout the season, they have been extremely lucky in the Playoffs. This led some fans to believe there will be an asterisk besides this year’s championship due to the sheer number of injuries. The most notable ones were Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving.
Phoenix Suns benefitted from injuries in all three rounds of the Playoffs in their walk to the finals. They faced the LA Lakers in the first round without Anthony Davis in the last 3 games of the series and advanced to the conference semi-finals.
They met 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets without their second-best player Jamal Murray and swept them to take on LA Clippers in the conference finals. Kawhi Leonard suffered a knee injury in Game 4 against Utah Jazz and was sidelined never to return, resulting in Phoenix Suns taking the advantage yet again.
While Chris Paul and Devin Booker suffered injuries as well, they didn’t miss much court time and have been relatively healthier in the postseason so far.
Healthy LA Lakers may have defeated Phoenix Suns
The defending champions LA Lakers had a disappointing end to their season and the hopes of pulling a repeat. They slipped from #3 seed to #7 after LeBron James and Anthony Davis missed considerable time due to injuries. This only goes to show how valuable they were to the team. LA Lakers defeated Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament to secure a playoff spot as #7 seed and faced Phoenix Suns in the first round.
Although they lost Game 1 due to several factors, Anthony Davis made a comeback and dropped 30+ points in back-to-back games to give LA Lakers a 2-1 lead over the Phoenix Suns. However, the unfortunate injury suffered by LA’s difference-maker Anthony Davis in Game 4 changed the course of this year’s Playoffs.
The LA Lakers went on to lose all three games in his absence and the loss was not even close. Chris Paul re-aggravated his shoulder injury in this series as well but didn’t miss any games, unlike Anthony Davis. He scored in single digits in 5 out of the 6 games Suns played against the Lakers but kept the turnovers to a bare minimum. Whereas LeBron James largely underperformed in AD’s absence, culminating in an easy walk to the second round for the Phoenix Suns.
But would the outcome be different had AD played the entire series against the Phoenix Suns? In Games 2 and 3 Lakers were at their best and the series looked pretty much over for the Suns. If that’s how they were meant to play with Anthony Davis on the court, the chances of Suns advancing to the conference semifinals would have been bleak.
Jamal Murry’s presence may not have changed the outcome of the conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets
Phoenix Suns swept Denver Nuggets in the second round of western conference playoffs. Devin Booker shined in the series while DeAndre Ayton did a good job in protecting the rim against reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. Prior to the matchup against Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets eliminated Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
Although blaming the sweep on Jamal Murry’s absence would be an easy way out, the Nuggets severely underperformed compared to the first-round closeout. While Nikola Jokic tried to carry as much as he could, Michael Porter Jr. and Facundo Campazzo disappeared in crucial moments. Austin Rivers didn’t have a big game again and all these factors led to the clean sweep. The lack of offense and perimeter shooting was largely due to Jamal Murry’s absence. However, the Suns might have closed out in six games against the Nuggets with MPJ and Campazzo not stepping up.
Jokic’s ejection in Game 4 was also viewed critically by fans and players. He is the most valuable player for the Nuggets and the officials threw him out of the game for a seemingly unintentional flagrant foul on Cameron Payne of the Phoenix Suns. The Nuggets were down 7 at that point with a quarter and a half left and it was achievable if not for Jokic’s ejection.
Can Phoenix Suns beat a healthy LA Clippers team?
LA Clippers had an impressive post-season run coming back twice from an 0-2 deficit. They defeated the Dallas Mavericks in 7 games and the #1 seed Utah Jazz in only 6. In game 4 of the conference semifinals, however, the LA Clippers suffered a huge loss when Kawhi Leonard went down with a knee injury. While he was not ruled out of the playoffs, he didn’t return to the court either.
Paul George stepped up to the occasion to lead the Clippers to their first-ever conference finals. The odds were stacked against them in WCF as they went 0-2 again. This time around they didn’t have the two-time finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, in the starting line up which severely affected their hopes of a championship.
However, it’s worthy to note that LA Clippers pushed the series to 6 games without Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard. Had they played in the series against Phoenix Suns the outcome certainly would’ve been in the Clippers’ favor. Do you think Phoneix Suns had an easy path to the finals? We certainly think so.