This has been, at least so far, the greatest season in Phoenix Suns history.
They finished the regular season with a 64-18 record, the best in team history and the top record in all of the National Basketball Association.
After blowing a 2-0 lead and losing in last year’s NBA Finals to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, the Suns have seemingly been on a mission to right whatever went wrong last summer.
With the 2022 NBA Playoffs about to start, many feel that the Suns are strong favorites to win the franchise’s first-ever world championship.
They certainly have a great shot, but there are also several things that can go wrong along the way and lead to another agony-filled defeat in a couple of months.
3. Chris Paul’s Career Has Been Full Of Heartbreak
Past failures don’t necessarily lead to future failures, but Chris Paul has been so snake-bit over the years that one almost has to wonder about his karma or whether it is simply meant to be for him to cradle the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Chris Paul’s teams blown leads:
2-0 vs Spurs in 2008
2-0 vs Grizzlies in 2013
3-1 vs Rockets in 2015
2-0 vs Blazers in 2016 (broken hand)
3-2 vs Warriors in 2018 (hamstring)
2-0 vs Bucks in 2021
He is the first player ever to blow four 2-0 leads in a best-of-7 series. pic.twitter.com/HZ6GZQaUZZ
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 21, 2021
One can start with the 2015 Western Conference semifinals when he was a member of those much-hyped Los Angeles Clippers “Lob City” teams.
Holding a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets, L.A. held a 19-point lead in the third quarter at home, only to collapse inexplicably and lose, 119-107.
2015 Conference Semis at Clippers
Rockets trailed by 17 when Harden checked out with 1:33 left in the 3rd, and then Josh Smith (!!) led the team on a series-saving 47-18 run. Harden played 0 minutes in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/s8TxXMhg1N
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 26, 2018
That loss made the outcome of Game 7 in Houston the biggest cinch in recent memory, and the Rockets took that contest easily.
Three years later, he was a member of the Rockets, who won a league-best 65 games and marched into the Western Conference Finals versus the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
In the closing moments of Game 5, just as Houston was about to take a 3-2 series lead, Paul pulled up lame with a hamstring injury, missing the next two games, which his team lost.
Then, of course, there was last year’s championship series, which Phoenix seemed to have total control over after taking the first two contests.
Paul is about to turn 37, and although he’s still a wonderful player, he averaged just 14.7 points per game, the lowest of his career.
He also made just 31.7 percent of his 3-pointers, well below par for him.
If he has lost his ability to go off for 30-plus points on any given night, the Suns could be in some trouble.
2. The Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have struggled down the stretch, but their defense has largely held up despite some key injuries this season.
In fact, they finished tops in defensive rating, and defense was the foundation of their three championship teams under head coach Steve Kerr.
Of course, the million-dollar question is when Stephen Curry will return from injury, but he missed some time late in the 2018 season and they still won it all.
1. The Milwaukee Bucks
Much as they did last year, the Bucks remained under the radar for much of the schedule.
But they ramped things up as time went on, and they finished with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Antetokounmpo could end up winning yet another MVP award, and he seems hungry to take his team to a repeat championship.
Milwaukee also has the benefit of last year’s experience of going all the way and the swag that comes with it, something which most members of the Suns don’t have the luxury of possessing.