Phoenix Suns fans, how exciting is this?
For the third time in franchise history and first instance since the 1992-93 season, the Suns advanced to the NBA Finals after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 130-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night.
Phoenix was led by All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who tied a postseason career-high with 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting (7-of-8 from 3-point range) along with eight assists and four rebounds. Paul is making the first NBA Finals appearance of his 16-year career, which he said he was happy for individually and collectively for his teammates.
“They (the Suns) won two games in this series without me, and it just shows you how crazy it is,” Paul said. “First series, got the nerve (shoulder) thing. Win the second series, ended up with COVID(-19). It’s been a lot man, and I just — I want it not just for myself, but for everybody in that locker room.”
All of the Suns’ players will be making their first NBA Finals appearance with the exception of starting forward Jae Crowder, who played with the Miami Heat in the championship round last season. Wednesday’s victory was especially rewarding for the Suns’ core players in the last few seasons but perhaps none more than starting shooting guard Devin Booker, who endured a stretch in which Phoenix went 121-280 in the first five seasons of his career.
After the game, Booker and Paul were embraced by Suns coach Monty Williams, who said the celebration from his players was rewarding for him.
“To be able to win a game like that is huge for the organization, city, all of that stuff,” Williams said. “So that’s what I have on my heart right now, is just a lot of gratitude. I’m just so thankful God has given me the job I have, and I get to work with the people I work with.”
The Suns will play the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Finals. The championship series is scheduled to begin on Thursday, July 8 at 6 p.m. PT on ABC.
The Suns get off to a hot start from the field, shooting 14-of-22 (63.6 percent) overall and 5-of-7 from 3-point range and built a 33-29 lead. Starting center Deandre Ayton was called upon much more than Game 5, leading Phoenix with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and three rebounds. Booker had nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, and the Suns had their first 30-point quarter of the Western Conference Finals since the third period of Game 1.
— 11:50 1Q: Facing a zone defense from the Clippers, Phoenix immediately busts it with a backdoor lob to starting forward Mikal Bridges, who gets a terrific screen from Ayton and a nice pass from Paul.
— 9:42 1Q: Booker wasn’t settling on Wednesday night. He drives to the cup here and has a nice finish over Clippers forward and infamous former Sun Marcus Morris.
— 8:02, 5:20, 2:48 1Q: After he was not prioritized in Game 5, Ayton had multiple direct post-ups in the first quarter, including this hook over Morris and runner over starting forward Paul George.
Big difference here from Game 5. Devin Booker intentionally waits for Deandre Ayton to get positioned near the block. Then, it's just a matter of going to work. #Suns up 23-20 with 2:23 left in the first. Ayton has a game-high 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting and 3 boards. pic.twitter.com/AznGWqaXdu— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
And Paul loved it.
— 1:32 1Q: After recording no more than five points since Game 2, backup point guard Cameron Payne got off to a solid start in Game 6 with this deep 3-pointer.
The Suns won this quarter, 33-28, while shooting 12-of-25 (48.0 percent) from the field and 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range. Crowder got hot, making 3-of-4 3-point attempts and led Phoenix with 13 points in the period. In comparison, Crowder shot 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) from 3-point range in previous games this series.
Here’s what Williams said after the Suns’ first quarter:
Monty Williams on the Suns’ play between quarters:— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
“More force, more intention. We’re getting the ball down the floor with pace. Defensively, we’re playing for each other.
“That’s how we played all year, that’s how we have to play tonight.”
Williams on Ayton’s play:— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
“Well, he was tired in the first quarter. That means he’s playing with the kind of force that allows us to have success. We like that.”
— 9:18 2Q: Can’t get enough of Payne? Neither could we. Here’s a crafty finish over the outstretched arms of George.
Some burst from Cam Payne we haven't quite seen since he suffered the ankle injury in Game 3. #Suns offense is in a much more aggressive, urgent flow, shooting 19-of-28 and 7-of-9 from 3.— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
45-35 lead with 9:14 left in the second. pic.twitter.com/FeqObtE87Y
— 6:15 2Q: Crowder, despite a hot second quarter, had a hot-headed moment when he intentionally tripped Clippers forward Nicolas Batum. Crowder appeared to be upset after not receiving a foul call on one of his 3-point attempts.
Dumb play to foul him after though pic.twitter.com/X6dwLmp92C— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
— 5:26 2Q: Booker in attack mode? Booker in attack mode.
— 4:05 2Q: There were some controversial foul calls throughout the game, this being one of them.
Crowder had the Suns’ final 10 points of the first half over the last 3:16, and we were loving it.
— 1:17 2Q: Flagrant or no flagrant? That’s for you to decide, Suns fans.
Thoughts on this play from Patrick Beverley? pic.twitter.com/fujQsR8Y6R— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
— Here’s how we were reacting and some of you fans as the Suns built a 66-57 lead.
Halftime— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
Shooting is coming alive (26-of-47 overall, 10-of-17 from 3). Four starters in double figures. Limiting Paul George to 3-of-8 shooting and playing with much more force.
Lot of hoops left though. How we feeling? pic.twitter.com/M4lDsW19aJ
24 min boys, 24 min of everything you got!— jason schneck (@theonlyjschneck) July 1, 2021
Shooting that well and still only up 9.— Dan in AZ (@AZDanman) July 1, 2021
Gotta assume boogie and Marcus Morris will cool off a little so the focus should be on keeping pg in check— Nah-maste (@vcmusictheory) July 1, 2021
3rd Quarters:— Andre Daniels (@fluffymonkeybby) July 1, 2021
Game 1- LAC 39, PHX 36.
Game 2- LAC 24, PHX 27.
Game 3- LAC 34, PHX 21.
Game 4- LAC 30, PHX 19.
Game 5- LAC 32, PHX 26.
This 3rd quarter tonight will be huge for Pheonix. They've got to win it or at least come out in a tie. Don't let LAC get hot again.
How about that ESPN broadcast, amirite?
Didn’t want to point it out again… but yeah https://t.co/oPVneYwBDV— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
This is where the Suns began to ran away. After their 17-point lead was cut to seven after a 10-0 run with 1:43 left in the period, Paul responded with an 8-0 run of his own. It only got worse for the Clippers from there.
— 11:08 3Q: Let’s be honest — this is where foul calls got really bad. Phoenix had three called on it in the first 52 seconds of the half, and they were very ticky-tacky.
Second. Suns will challenge pic.twitter.com/w7AkUrTW8Y— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
Probably got a little too happy on the farm about Crowder.
Jae Crowder is making my soul happy— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
— 8:59 3Q: They still couldn’t guard Ayton.
Let the big man work. Up to a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. pic.twitter.com/2gyeCuw3gz— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
— 6:58 3Q: Booker wasn’t losing this game. No way. The Suns went up 13 after this dunk.
Check out Devin Booker's face on this. pic.twitter.com/umXK9wutEM— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
And then we saw a great moment of leadership.
— 4:01 3Q: Remember when backup forward Torrey Craig lost his rotation spot? Neither could we. He had a terrific sequence around this point, making a 3-pointer and then coming up with a steal here that led to a finish for Bridges.
Torrey Craig making sure his rotation spot never gets taken again. pic.twitter.com/Vol0yZV4xt— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
But right after, here come the foul calls.
— 1:43 3Q: And when the Clippers capped off their 10-0 run, of course it came after a push-off from George.
Lol, perfect way to cap off the 10-0 run.— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
It's a ball game again. pic.twitter.com/tceRnoRhKP
— 1:15 3Q: This was not called a flagrant foul.
Couple things:— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
1. Oh no, on Book's nose.
2. Didn't Cam Johnson get called for a flagrant on a similar play like this last game?
You'd have to think there'd be one here. pic.twitter.com/FMbvDFAKMF
— 0:55 3Q: Paul and Clippers center Demarcus Cousins. This was hilarious.
Chris Paul is all of us right now pic.twitter.com/mefn2XMc7y— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
— 0:02 3Q: This was pretty funny, too.
DA got a tech for saying a bad word? Goodness— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) July 1, 2021
Let the Paul takeover continue. He had 19 of his points in this quarter on 7-of-9 shooting. Think he was going to let his first NBA Finals appearance pass him by? No way. The Suns won the quarter, 33-20, and the celebration ensued.
— 10:30 4Q: This is just silly.
Chris Paul ain't losing this game. pic.twitter.com/FMzmlNhF5T— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
— 7:47 4Q: Come on now. Hand down, man down.
— 5:49 4Q: In the words of Crowder, this is when the Suns knew they broke the Clippers. Paul on this play: “It stings.”
Let’s get to the celebration now.
Can't get enough of it, Suns fans? pic.twitter.com/QYKOtP0H4r— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
This is where all the fun happened.
Chris Paul on what it sounds like to be in the NBA Finals:— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
"Damn, it sounds good."
On what kind of mission he was on:
A moment 16 seasons in the making. pic.twitter.com/sndA4VitWJ— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 1, 2021
Stay tuned for more, Bright Siders. This is just the beginning for this team.