Chris Paul's NBA Finals Debut Was Absolutely Worth The Wait
I would say that a large part of the excitement around the Phoenix Suns making the NBA Finals was the fact that we finally got to see Chris Paul play at the highest level. It was the one thing we hadn't seen so far during his Hall Of Fame career. This man played 1,090 regular season games and 124 playoff games before finally stepping on the floor for an NBA Finals. How did it go? You tell me
It was a masterpiece. A true display of point guard greatness. He wasn't alone, pretty much every Suns player that touched the floor last night played well. If this is the version the Bucks are going to have to deal with this series, things could be over fairly quickly.
As it has all year, everything starts with Chris Paul. It wasn't just that he went 12-19 from the floor, it was how and when he did it. Things were relatively close heading into the third quarter, then CP3 erupts, goes 6-7 from the floor for 16 points and the route was on. When the Bucks started to make their threes and cut it to single digits, Paul was there to respond. What we saw was well worth the wait
The Suns plan of attack with Paul was pretty obvious. The key to their success is finding as many matchups as possible where Paul is not guarded by Jrue Holiday. All it took was giving a quick high screen on Paul's guy and it put the Bucks in a pretty tough position where neither option was all that great. We saw them either play drop coverage which is asking for trouble because Paul/Booker will simply pull up from midrange, something CP3 went 4-7 on. Or they switch and someone like Brook Lopez or Bobby Portis is left on an island with a player they have no chance staying in front of while defending in space.
Paul hunted that Lopez matchup a total of 6 times and he finished with 12 points on 5-7 shooting. He was also 2-2 against Bobby Portis in his 3 possessions. That accounted for 17 of his 32 points, or over half for those not great at math. This is where the Bucks need to figure out an adjustment. You can't have a game where Lopez is guarding Paul for 21% of the time and someone like Holiday is only at 27% or Giannis is at 8%. Maybe the trick will be to say fuck it and play small, have Giannis at the 5 so even if they do switch, you have a more capable defender against Paul.
What makes the Suns so tough and Paul so good, is they have a counter for whatever defensive option you choose. Both Paul and Booker are 3 level scorers. They have the shooting to space the floor in the event the Bucks go zone. Maybe in Game 2 we'll see more hedging and recovering as opposed to drop/switch, because Chris Paul is too locked in right now to be given either that much space in drop coverage, or the type of mismatch that Lopez ultimately is.
It's hard for both sides to not overreact after a Game 1 like we got last night. The NBA Finals are a marathon though. Things are nowhere close to being over after just one game. I don't know how confident you are as a Bucks fan that Coach Bud will be able to actually make any sort of adjustment, but we have a long way to go.
I just know that as someone who waited a long time to finally see Chris Paul on this stage with this type of opportunity, it was awesome seeing him play some of the best basketball of his life. Now he just has to do it 3 more times.