Chris Paul is in a bit of a predicament.
Usually, during this time of year, he’s posted up on a remote island somewhere devouring NBA games like the rest of us.
“It’s weird being no games being on,” he told reporters on Monday. “I usually watch games every day, so that’s probably the part that sucks. That’s probably the part that sucks the most.”
But for the first time in his 16-year career, the man that many refer to as “The Point God” is bored as hell; an unfortunate fate of his own design because there are no teams left to play NBA basketball. In part, because he vanquished them all himself.
The Lakers were the first to taste his wrath in the opening round of the playoffs, and frankly, the Nuggets never stood a chance. Next were the Clippers, who kicked and screamed until the silence consumed them, and now it’s the Bucks’ turn to fall prey to a man who, at 36 years old, is coming to terms with his own basketball mortality.
Paul has waited 16 years for this moment. He served his time in New Orleans, failed to meet expectations in Los Angeles, survived a cacophonous tenure in Houston, and put some “respek” on his name in Oklahoma City. So entering his first NBA Finals, if you really think a measly bum ankle and a sore left hand is gonna stop him from showing up to show out on the biggest stage of his career, you got him all the way fucked up. And on Tuesday night, Christopher Emmanuel Paul—first of his name, Sentry of the Valley of the Sun—made our ancestors proud.
In 37 minutes of action, the 11-time All-Star carved up Milwaukee with a brilliant 32-point, nine-assist performance for the ages. After failing to score in the first quarter, the Wake Forest product turned all the up with the up in the second half of the game and delivered 16 points on seven shots in the third quarter. The Suns never looked back.
“That’s CP3, man. What else do you want me to say?” third-year Suns forward Mikal Bridges said after the game. “He’s the guy when I was a kid, looking up, seeing him, knowing he was going to be a Hall of Famer, wishing, ‘Dang, CP been in the league, he deserves a ring.’ And now I’m in this seat where I have an opportunity to help him get one. It’s amazing seeing him doing this.”
Phoenix’s 118-105 win wasn’t a one man show, either. Devin Booker, who was an accomplice in Paul’s relentless abuse of would-be defender Brook Lopez, was kind enough to bring 27 points and six dimes to the party, while Deandre Ayton continued his postseason ascension into one of the game’s best bigs with his own 22 point, 19 rebound performance.
“We’ve been building all season long for these moments,” Paul said. “We’re going to keep playing. This is just one game. We’ve got to stay locked in.”
In Milwaukee’s losing effort, Giannis Antetokounmpo—who may or may not have cybernetic implants—made a valiant, if not shocking, return after missing the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals with a hyperextended knee. In 35 minutes of play, he looked good as hell, too.
“My knee felt good. Obviously, when you go play a game, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said after his 20-point, 17-rebound effort. “I’m just happy that I’m out there and I’m able to help my team in any way possible and participate in my first NBA Finals. I’m just trying to put my attention on that and not on if my knee hurts.”
He might wanna pay a little more attention in Game 2 because if the Suns continue to look like world-beaters, this series will be over and done with by Game 4.