With just a few ticks under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Monday’s Game 1 contest between the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets, Chris Paul had the ball in his hands amidst a personal heater. On the previous three Suns’ possessions, he’d scored two of his trademark fading pullups and a floater off the backboard, good for six points. Denver’s Paul Millsap stood before CP3, having lowered himself in an effort to deter any potential shot CP3 had in mind, while Austin Rivers sat on the Denver sideline, looking on at something all too familiar. Recognizing what’s about to transpire, he leaps up from his seat to offer Millsap a warning.
This is the part where the narrator would tell you “it didn’t matter,” or “it was already too late,” or something more foreboding.
Chris Paul, as evidenced by Rivers’ perfect impersonation, has pulled off this same move hundreds of times before he elected to give it a go on Monday night, and though results have varied, the threat is always there. He can explode at any time, unleashing a slew of shots a player his size likely shouldn’t be able to get off over someone the size of a Millsap or a Michael Porter Jr., but that you know he’s bound to make because, well, he’s Chris Paul. Even on a bum shoulder, you have to worry about him over everyone else on the floor.
The Denver Nuggets survived Damian Lillard’s offensive onslaught. But the Phoenix Suns are a stronger kind of storm, one that could quickly decimate them.
But for perhaps the first time in his career, he’s on a team where each of his four floormates can (and regularly do) cause concern for an opponent, too, thus relinquishing some of his typical load. It’s a dream scenario for Paul; it could prove nightmarish for the Nuggets.
Paul’s triple made it a 100-84 game with 75 percent of a quarter to play, but the energy inside their arena muted any bit of energy the Nuggets had left in their reserve and an otherwise competitive game veered staunchly in the direction of a quasi-blowout, 122-105. They followed the exact same formula in Wednesday night’s Game 2, where the Suns held a consistent eight-to-ten point lead before breaking it open in their favor by the end of the third quarter en route to handing Denver its worst loss of the season, 123-98.
The series thus far has been, more or less, a duo of wars the Suns have won handily. But not only have they won the wars: they’ve won each and every battle within them. Even the ones that, analytically, they “should have” lost.