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Will the real Chris Paul please stand up?

The Phoenix Suns player we saw in Dallas will not lead the Suns to the promised land.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

May I have your attention, please? Will the real Chris Paul please stand up? I repeat, will the real Chris Paul please stand up? We’re gonna have a problem here.

One thing is for sure, Chris Paul will never forget his 37th birthday weekend in the Lone Star State The Point God boarded a plane in Phoenix as a 36 year-old, landed in Texas, blew out the candles on his cake, and instantly appeared to have the clock run out on his effectiveness in the NBA. The Phoenix Suns lost both games to the Dallas Mavericks and Chris Paul put together two of the worst consecutive performances we have seen from him in his 17 year career.

Of course I’m being facetious when I insinuate that Father Time must be guarding Chris Paul because the last two games occurred following his 37th birthday. But his play left much to be desired.

If the Phoenix Suns have any hopes of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy, it starts and ends with CP3. He is the initiator, the driver, and the executor of the offense. While the Suns displayed an ability to win without him post All-Star break, the postseason is a different beast.

When the Mavericks returned to Dallas, it was clear that they wanted to play with more urgency and in a physical manner. You saw them execute their game plan, ripping a page from the Milwaukee Bucks’ playbook in the NBA Finals last season. You know, the chapter titled, “Attack Chris Paul for 94 feet”? The goal is to make him expend energy attempting to get the ball over the timeline.

Reggie Bullock read that chapter, and the Point God suffered as a result. And while I believe the Suns have done a good job of having other players bring the ball up, and ultimately this might save Chris Paul some wear and tear, he hasn’t been the same since the Mavericks made this adjustment.

There is of course the argument that, much akin to the New Orleans Pelicans series, the opposition is being permitted by the officiating to enact this more physical style of play.

Dallas is badgering Chris Paul and baiting him into fouls. They are forcing him to make decisions and, when there is any contact, falling to the floor in writhing pain. If Chris Paul attempts to match physicality with physicality, a whistle blows.

I understand that there is no sympathy for Paul for he has a reputation of putting himself in situations that draw attention and whistles from the officials. I know I’m calling the kettle black. When Jae Crowder and Chris Paul are on your team, you’ll get no love from the anti-flopping crowd.

Chicka, chicka, chicka, Chris Paul, I’m sick of him. Look at him, walkin’ around, grabbin’ his you-know-what. Flippin’ the you-know-who. Yeah, but he’s so cute though.

When Luka Doncic states after the game that, “I saw he was going for the rebound and I was surprised there. [Paul asked] me, ‘If I pushed him that hard’. I said, ‘No, but it was a smart play’. He said, ‘I know’”.

It was clear that this team was focused on flopping to get Paul in foul trouble. You can’t blame them for doing so. You can be frustrated with the officials for allowing it to happen, but you can’t fault the Mavs for attempting to gain a competitive advantage.

When you have a team targeting you, while at the same time playing physical up and down the court, you’re going to struggle. And struggled CP3 did in Game 3 and 4.

Through the first eight games of the postseason, Chris Paul averaged 22.6 points and 9.9 assists in 35.8 minutes. His assist-to-turnover ratio was 5.23. He appeared to be at the peak of powers, especially in the fourth quarter.

During his two games in Dallas, Chris Paul averaged 8.5 points and 5.5 assists in 30 minutes played. The length of the Dallas defense coupled with some lackadaisical passing has equated to a very un-CP3 stat line that includes an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.22. for the first time in his career, Paul had more fouls that points in Game 3.

The Mavs made Paul look old in an instant. If Phoenix wants to win this series, he needs to remember what it’s like to be a 36 year-old again. Champions adjust. And if Chris Paul wants to be a champion, he is going to have to adjust to the defense that the Mavericks are throwing at him.

If anyone can make adjustments, it is Chris Paul. And he’s gonna have to. Cameron Payne isn’t cutting it as a backup point guard right now. He is in his own head. He’s missing layups, bunnies, and rather than letting the game come to him, he is attacking with a carelessness that has him shooting 31.7 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from beyond the arc this postseason.

What can Chris Paul do? It starts and ends with simply taking care of the basketball. The Mavericks have found a way to enter his head space just as Jose Alvarado did in the First Round. They are pestering him with one player, rather, they are trying to make him earn every inch of the court. Dallas is jumping the passing lanes and forcing him to turn the ball over.

The solution? Back screens while bringing the ball up the court, using screens to get the matchups you want, have players ready to assist when blitzes occur, and open up those passing lanes.

The Suns play the Mavs on Tuesday night back in Phoenix. It’s exactly what CP3 needs to stand back up. So, in true 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Eminem fashion...

Will the real Chris Paul please stand up. And put one of those fingers on each hand up? And be proud to be outta your mind and outta control. One more time, loud as you can, how does it go?