Phoenix Suns starting point guard Chris Paul was on the verge of his first career NBA Finals appearance on Monday night. But that accomplishment will have to wait.
The Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Paul and the Suns’ hopes to advance to the championship round in a 116-102 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena. In 36 minutes, Paul finished with a series-best 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting along with eight assists and three rebounds, though he missed all six of his 3-point attempts.
After the game, Paul outlined a number of disappointments, including the Suns’ inability to build on a 62-61 lead in the third quarter and recording 14 turnovers for the second straight game.
“I had a couple turnovers early in the game, first (and) second quarter, and they converted on all of them,” Paul said. “So like we said, that’s uncharacteristic of us and we got to be better in Game 6.”
Paul and the Suns have another chance to close out the Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here’s everything Paul said after Phoenix’s Game 5 loss.
If he feels OK after falling to the floor from a flagrant foul on Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:
“Yeah, I’ll be alright.”
On the energy and pace from the Suns throughout the game:
“Definitely got to be better. They came out and they were the aggressors. They sort of looked like us in Game 4, and they hit us. They were too comfortable, we got to be better.”
On Clippers starting forward Paul George’s 41-point night on 15-of-20 shooting with 13 rebounds and six assists and how he has played with forward Kawhi Leonard unavailable:
“Yeah, he got it going, you know what I mean? Like I said, he was getting to his spots, he was making shots. (Clippers starting forward) [Marcus Morris] and (starting guard) Reggie (Jackson) got it going early. It gave them a chance to sort of settle into the game, and we got to make it tougher on them.”
On the Suns taking the lead in the second half and being unable to hold onto it:
“We got to close quarters better, you know what I mean? That’s been a problem for us all series long is closing quarters, the last two-and-a-half, three minutes of quarters. We took the lead, maybe cut it to one or two and then they get a bucket. Then they go on a run. So look at it, see what we need to do better and get ready for the next one.”
On the Clippers’ success with their small-ball rotation in this game:
“I don’t know, I got to look at it. We gave them a lot of open shots early, you know what I mean? They got their threes going, and I think that’s a team that plays off confidence when they’re making shots. So we got to try to get the right people shooting, and our offense feeds off our defense. So we just got to remember that.”
On how the Clippers defended Suns starting center Deandre Ayton:
“Got to do a better job getting it to him, getting our spacing right knowing that they’re undersized. They got like three people boxing him out or trying to hold him down. So we just got to pick our spots better and be more aggressive.”
On how frustrating it was that things didn’t click for his team in the first quarter:
“It’s frustrating, but you realize it’s a long game. You settle in. Guys came in, we fought back and it seemed like every time we get there or whatnot, they do another run or whatnot. So we’ll look at it, like I said, and we got to come out better.”
On Suns coach Monty Williams saying the team “will be better” for Game 6 and if the team vibe matched that:
“Absolutely, absolutely. We know we’re going there, a place where we won last time. We know they’re going to be excited and ready to go. So we’ll be ready.”
On what he feels like the Suns’ response level will be like in Los Angeles:
“We’ll see tomorrow. Yeah, that’s why you play the games” — then he corrected himself — “We’ll see the day after tomorrow.”
On the Clippers turning 14 Suns turnovers into 23 points:
“Yeah, that was uncharacteristic of us, especially me. I had a couple turnovers early in the game, first (and) second quarter, and they converted on all of them. So like we said, that’s uncharacteristic of us and we got to be better in Game 6.”