After an NBA-best 64-18 regular season, the Suns were pushed to seven games by the Dallas Mavericks.
The team many saw as the favorites to win the NBA title bowed out in just the second round.
And it was not a graceful bow out either.
A 33-point beatdown was somehow better than what transpired on the court.
New story: The 2021-22 Suns are now a poster child for coming up small in a big moment, akin to a talent show singer coming down with laryngitis on the day of the final vote. Looking back at another disappointing ending for Phoenix https://t.co/l7KR2MSAqj
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 16, 2022
The final score had Phoenix putting up a measly but respectable 90 points.
However, a quick glance at the box score shows the Suns only had 27 at halftime and 50 after three quarters.
Nearly half of their points came in the fourth when Dallas had their third-stringers in the game.
What made it worse for Phoenix is their two stars seemingly never showed up to play.
Paul and Devin Booker combined for 21 points on 7-22 shooting.
Numbers that were inflated after a dreadful first half of three points on 0-11 shooting.
Booker is still just 25 years of age and will have a chance to avenge this loss.
Paul is now 37 and while he has announced he is not retiring, how many more opportunities will he have?
Another playoff letdown is damaging to Paul’s legacy.
Paul’s Playoff Collapses
Sunday night marked the fifth time in Paul’s storied career that his team blew a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs.
The others were 2008 against the San Antonio Spurs, 2013 against the Memphis Grizzlies, 2016 against the Portland Trail Blazers, and 2021 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
This has always been the knock against Paul.
A player who has consistently dominated the regular season but seemingly shrinks when the moment presents itself.
Chris Paul is the first player ever to blow five 2-0 leads in a best-of-7 series.
2-0 vs Spurs in 2008
2-0 vs Grizzlies in 2013
2-0 vs Blazers in 2016
2-0 vs Bucks in 2021
2-0 vs Mavs in 2022
He is also the only player to blow four 2-0 leads. pic.twitter.com/Y6yXcKVT66
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 16, 2022
Here are his stat lines in the five close-out games he has faced after blowing a 2-0 series lead:
- 2008: 18 Points (8-18 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-5 FT), 14 Assists, 5 Rebounds, 4 Turnovers
- 2013: 28 Points (11-16 FG, 0-3 3PT, 6-9 FT), 8 Assists, 4 Rebounds, 0 Turnovers
- 2016: Inactive
- 2021: 26 Points (11-19 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 Assists, 2 Rebounds, 3 Turnovers
- 2022: 10 Points (4-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, 1-2 FT), 4 Assists, 1 Rebound, 0 Turnovers
So, is the perceived knock against him warranted?
Outside of 2022 and 2016, his stat lines in elimination games look pretty good.
Dive deeper into his averages in games after the first two wins, and his stats still seem solid outside of this series against Dallas.
- 2008: 23.8 Points, 10 Assists, 5 Rebounds, 2.6 Turnovers (.505/.143/.786)
- 2013: 22.5 Points, 5.5 Assists, 4.5 Rebounds, 1.8 Turnovers (.516/.250/.840)
- 2016: 21 Points, 6.5 Assists, 2 Rebounds, 1 Turnovers (.486/.222/1.000) – 2 Inactive
- 2021: 19 Points, 8 Assists, 2 Rebounds, 3.3 Turnovers (.541/.455/.714)
- 2022: 9.4 Points, 5.8 Assists, 3.4 Rebounds, 3.6 Turnovers (.500/.500/.750)
Whether or not it is deserved, Paul will always have the label of “choker” attached to his name.
He has few opportunities remaining to reverse that narrative and cement himself as one of the all-time greats.
Regardless of his playoff reputation, Paul has consistently been a winning influence everywhere he goes.
Since being drafted in 2005, he has only experienced a losing season three times.
All of which came during his first five seasons in the league.
He has made the playoffs 12 consecutive years, highlighted by the 2019-20 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Instead, they went 44-28 and pushed the Houston Rockets to seven games in the first round.
When he was drafted in 2005 to the New Orleans Hornets, the team was coming off an 18-64 season.
Hurricane Katrina meant the team had to play most of their games in Oklahoma City.
Paul helped guide them to a 38-44 record – a 20-game improvement over the previous season.
CP3 has career averages of 18.1 points, 9.5 assists, and 2.1 steals while slashing .473/.369/.871.
He has led the NBA in assists five times (including this season) and steals six times.
He is third all-time in assists, fourth in steals, and 44th in points.
Paul is a 12x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, and 9x All-Defensive selection.
He is one of, if not the, best pure point guards in the history of the NBA.
If he can finally win a ring, he will go down as one of the best players in the history of the NBA.