Chris Paul leads the Phoenix Suns to first career playoff sweep and Western Conference Finals

For a moment, as he barged into the public room on his own, it seemed Chris Paul thought to soak it. It would have been an emphatic final statement on the series, the piece to cap off the complete dominance his Phoenix Suns have shown over the Denver Nuggets throughout.

But there were still 3 minutes to play, and even with 11 points ahead, Paul had not yet planned everything.

“You’re just trying to stay in the moment,” he said. “My teammates will tell you, there were 18 seconds on the clock and I was still on their butt. That’s how I am.”

Even with the league MVP Nikola Jokic Ejected in the third quarter, Paul played this one on the buzzer, as the visiting Suns completed their Denver Nuggets 125-118 sweep on Sunday night to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

“The emotions are happy, grateful, tired, relieved,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “It’s one of those moments for me that, quite frankly, I never thought I would have the chance to experience. For me, I just have a level of gratitude that I can’t even explain.”

It was the first time in Paul’s career that he had completed a playoff sweep, something he had been concerned about and had let his teammates know before the game.

“We were excited, man,” Suns guard Devin Booker said of the post-game atmosphere. “Chris said before the game that he had never swept anyone, he had never beaten someone 4-0. I don’t know when the Suns were last in the Western Conference final. times, but tonight is one of the nights we celebrate internally and then wake up tomorrow, we’re either going to the Clippers or to Utah. “

To answer Booker’s question, the last time the Suns were in the conference finals was the 2009-10 season, when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers beat Steve Nash and the Suns in six games. They retreated for the first time in over a decade in style, dominating the series from start to finish, with an average winning margin of 15.7 points.

This is Paul’s second time in the conference final, the last time in 2018 when he was a member of the Rockets and missed Games 6 and 7 with a hamstring injury while that Houston has fallen in seven games against the Golden State Warriors.

Now he’s four wins away from a very first appearance in the NBA Finals.

“A lot of things, I haven’t had a lot of time to deal with them yet,” said Paul. “But I am going to get on the bus and first of all call my children.”

Paul scored 37 points on a 14-for-19 shot in the close of Game 4, closing a simply magnificent streak. The 36-year-old future Hall of Famer finished the streak averaging 25.5 points on 61.8% shooting, 58% on 3, 100% on the free throw line, plus an absurd 41-5 ratio. assists.

“A few years ago they deregistered me. ‘You can’t do this.’ It’s not about me, it’s about us, “Paul said after the game. “Shows what you can do when you get together as a team. We have a great team there and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of. “

Throughout the season, Paul’s control of play was demonstrated and his influence on the young Suns was clear as he asserted himself at key points to trigger races. He’s been particularly brilliant in the midrange, taking advantage of the ineffectiveness of the NBA market to slice up the Nuggets’ cover schedule. In Game 4, he had 10 mid-distance shots, the most of his career (playoffs or regular season).

After the Suns sent the defending champions Lakers in six games, the Nuggets posed a new challenge with the league MVP and contrasting style. But with a young big man Deandre Ayton and a promising cast of supporting actors around Paul and Booker, the Suns have never been more than up to the task.

Paul shared a long emotional embrace with Williams after the game. Their relationship dates back a decade, with Williams coaching Paul in New Orleans for a season in 2010-11. Paul and Williams remained close even when they went their separate ways, and after the tragedy that struck Williams in 2016, when his wife Ingrid was killed in a car crash, Paul offered his support.

“The darkest moment of my life, Chris was right there,” Williams said. “One of the highlights of my career is there.”

Paul said: “It’s touching. Mont has been through things in his life that a lot of people don’t necessarily come back to.”

Since their run over a decade ago under Mike D’Antoni and the Seven Seconds or Less revolution, the Suns have largely vanished from Western controversy. They were a constant staple in the draft lottery, but finally found some momentum in the NBA bubble last summer, going 8-0 and barely making an unlikely run to the game of play. .

It established a new identity for Phoenix to build on, and then with the addition of Paul, the Suns just kept climbing.

“It’s a hard feeling to express,” Booker said. “You always think after a game like this after you close a series, you sit down and think a bit and think. What we’ve been through as an organization and as a team.”

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