Clippers-Suns Conference Finals Epitomizes the Bizarreness of this Year’s Playoffs

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul scored 41 points in a 130-103 Suns victory against Paul George’s LA Clippers Game 6 last Wednesday, making way for his first finals appearance. Chris Paul and NBA Finals? Those words typically don’t go together. But it captures how weird the playoffs have been this year.

This Western Conference Final between the Suns and Clippers is the culmination of many narratives being put to bed- Paul George isn’t a postseason liability, Devin Booker isn’t simply “empty stats on a bad team,” and Chris Paul is capable of making a finals appearance.

But obviously George, Booker, and Paul are great players that have the ability to play well in the playoffs. Their improved production isn’t THAT weird.

And it’s not a coincidence that the two teams in last year’s finals were out the first round this year. The shortest offseason in NBA history due to an unprecedented pandemic was evinced with unprecedented injuries.

“All the injuries just go to show how huge private corporations don’t care about the health of their employees, in this case the NBA and their players under contract,” junior Rahul Yalamanchili said. “To the NBA, the numbers matter more than the sport itself.”

The NBA is all about marketing. It’s a business. It thrives on narratives. Chris Paul vs Clippers. Both NBA finals virgins. Someone’s bound to make history. It just so happened to be Chris Paul.

So it’s not the injuries or the narratives that makes this season so bizarre. It’s something a little more visceral.

Let me put it this way. Who’s to say this Suns team even gets Chris Paul via trade if they didn’t go 8-0 in the bubble to substantiate some form of winning culture. And who did Booker shoot that buzzer beater-turned-twitter meme against? Paul George and the Clippers.

Who did Devin Booker have an altercation with this season? Paul George.

What was Chris Paul’s former team? The Clippers.

Also, Paul George and Chris Paul both have Paul in their names. And both had 41 points in respective Games 5 and 6. Okay, that might be a stretch.

Patrick Beverley pushing Chris Paul was also symbolic. Recalling the 2017 offseason, Patrick Beverly was in a trade package that sent Chris Paul to the Rockets. A nuanced shove, almost revenge.

“Suns so lucky, they played an injured Lakers, Nuggets, Clippers, and now they boutta play an injured Bucks,” senior Dylan Chuang lamented.

The Lakers, Nuggets, and the Clippers didn’t have Anthony Davis, Jamal Murray, and Kawhi Leonard respectively. And the Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is recovering from a hyperextended knee.

If last year was an asterisk season with the bubble, what does that make this year? Yeah, the Suns were the luckiest team matchup wise, but Chris Paul has always been the unluckiest player ever. His Clippers tenure was injury ridden. He was one hamstring away from making the finals in 2018.

Paul literally had COVID-19 during the playoffs. He injured his shoulder in the first round against the Lakers. He’s currently dealing with torn ligaments in his hand. How bizarre can a postseason be, when a team whose arguably best player has dealt with THREE calamities is considered “lucky.” Not to mention Devin Booker, who hurt his nose and wore a cool mask.

“Players getting injured left and right because they had the shortest offseason of all time was a direct effect of the NBA’s unwillingness to let players rest and rehab properly,” Yalamanchili said. “You can call that karma for the NBA, because this year’s playoffs have been extremely boring.”

Maybe Paul’s experiencing some good karma. He was traded the season before to OKC, a situation in which people expected him to sit out and get traded again. He waited his turn, took them to the playoffs, and vindicated himself. And this Finals experience is the universe rewarding him.

But Paul hasn’t been on his best behavior. He flopped a LOT in this series. The Patrick Beverley shove wasn’t completely unwarranted- he did stare Bev down. In this environment?  You’re asking to be beat. The Suns did have a nice, almost myopic champagne locker room celebration after winning Game 6. You’re asking for a jinx. Job’s not finished, CP3. Maybe I watch too many movies.

There’s just so much superstition with basketball, and sports in general. I mean half of Skip Bayless’ tweets are reverse jinxes for the Clippers (the other half hating on Lebron). Glen “Big Baby” Davis suggesting Kyrie Irving’s Game 4 ankle injury against the Bucks is karma for stepping on the Celtics Logo. Even the 76ers losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the Conference Semifinals after infamously tanking for half the 2010’s. You can’t cut corners in basketball- the “Basketball Gods” are watching.

Like what’s the probability of a star player, borderline 90% ft shooter, missing two consecutive clutch free-throws? That’s not a rhetorical question, it’s around 1%. This was literally Game 2 Paul George, and the Basketball Gods compounded this mistake with a Suns game-winning alley-oop with 0.7 on the clock.

Regardless of the weird games and circumstances, the road to a title is tortuous. Give CP3 and Book their credit, man. This Suns team isn’t a super team- CP3’s not shamelessly ring chasing. Hopefully, Giannis Antetokounmpo returns for a competitive Finals series, so I don’t have to hear anymore Mickey Mouse jokes.