The hype is real for the newest generation of NBA players, and the reigning MVP of the League, Chris Paul, is at the center of it. Paul debuted as a starter in the 2016 NBA Finals, the first time a player has ever entered the series as a starter in all four games. This marked the first time that a player’s first four playoff games started in a four-year span, a streak that was interrupted by the epic “Seven Seconds or Less” Lakers in 2009.
If you listened to the national media or had your eyes open to the show in the press, the belief was that this year’s NBA Finals would be a battle between two of the most decorated athletes of all time—LeBron James and Stephen Curry. But instead, the series between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers has been a side show of two of the best point guards of all time.Chris Paul waited 16 years to reach the NBA Finals. His performance is historic and allows the Phoenix Suns to qualify for the finals. After a sometimes-difficult playoff run, he made a legendary, albeit late, NBA Finals debut.
Paul wasn’t the only player in the first game to reach a rare milestone. Phoenix’s 118-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the series opener featured some historic performances. Suns center Deandre Ayton has joined an exclusive group. Ironically, thanks to Chris Paul, he didn’t make it in time to join another team.
The Bucks and Suns, two teams that started Game 1 with a combined six games in the Finals, didn’t seem overwhelmed on the big stage. In addition to Paul’s heroism, it was also a great night for some great men.
Deandre Ayton has made a big impression in the NBA Finals. With 22 points and 19 rebounds, Ayton became the first player since Tim Duncan in 1999 to score at least 15 points and grab 15 rebounds in his first final game, according to Justin Kubatko, creator of Basketball Reference. Ayton was the first to reach the milestone; Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, playing a week after his hyperextended left knee, scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
And here’s the thing about the newbies. On Milwaukee’s last possession, Chris Paul appeared to steal the rebound from Eaton. The former world number one made his first appearance in the playoffs and told The Step Back ‘s Gerald Burge he didn’t mind.
Yes, Book (Devin Booker) went for it, I didn’t care.
One last missed rebound kept Ayton from becoming an elite group. Only three players have collected 20 boards in their first game in the NBA Finals. You may recognize some of the names.
- Wilt Chamberlain, 1964 San Francisco Warriors, 22
- Larry Bird, 1981 Boston Celtics, 21
- Bill Walton, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, 20.
Let’s move on to Chris Paul’s performance.
Chris Paul finished his night with 32 points, nine assists and four rebounds* on 12-of-19 shooting. Paul made 4 of the 7 distance shots. It’s all the more remarkable that he scored all his points in the last three quarters.
Paul failed to score in the first half, missing both attempts and the Suns led 30-26. According to ESPN, he became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1991 to score at least 30 points and provide eight assists in his first Finals appearance.
Paul’s 32 points in his debut were not the only historic achievement in the first game. He also joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan as the only players age 36 or older to score 30 points in the NBA Finals. Abdul-Jabbar has done it six times, and should probably be brought up much more often in endless discussions about the greatest players of all time.
Earlier, he broke Jordan’s record with 41 points in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. And with 73 points, 17 assists and a shooting percentage of 28-of-43 in the last two games, Paul became the third Phoenix Suns point guard (and incidentally the fourth player inhistory ) to score at least 70 points and 15 assists in consecutive playoff games with a shooting percentage of more than 65 percent, according to ESPN.
Paul joins another very impressive list. Steve Nash, Kevin Johnson and Oscar Robertson can all play a little. But Chris Paul still had something to say to the historical boys.
Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul (3) scores against Milwaukee Bucks’ Pat Connaughton (24) during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Chris Paul made NBA history with 32 points in Game 1. He is also mentioned as part of the high performance tandem.
Paul (32 points) and Devin Booker (27 points) became the first teammates since 2012 to each score at least 25 points in their NBA Finals debut, and only the third since 1980 to do so.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went 25-for-25 for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. The only other duo to accomplish this feat was Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway of the Orlando Magic in 1995. (Phoenix fans, ignore this, but these teams both lost).
In the first game, the Phoenix Suns came out in full force. This is the first finals appearance for the Suns since they lost to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1993.
Chris Paul helped the Suns to their first win in the series. The second game will be played on Thursday, July 8 in Phoenix, before the finale moves to the Brewers’ hometown for Game 3.
COMPARED TO: Never forget that the Milwaukee Bucks had a chance to get Chris Paul, and they blew it
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