The Phoenix Suns are missing the healthy version of Chris Paul in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Game 3 of their first-round series against the LA Lakers went as badly as the last game, with Paul sitting out the last 9:34 of the fourth quarter and was nowhere to be found when the Suns made a last-ditch rally.
Injuries have been a part of Chris Paul’s career playoffs experience. The fact that it happens to one of the best point guards in the league time and time again is frustrating to basketball fans and pundits alike.
Chris Paul’s injury and the Phoenix Suns’ playoff chances
The latest injury to Chris Paul occurred in the second quarter of Game 1 after he collided with teammate Cameron Johnson. He later had to be assisted to the locker room, but was able to return, though he was hampered by the injury from then on.
Chris Paul was diagnosed with a shoulder contusion and it has affected his play during the past two games. If his shoulder continues to limit his movements, it’s almost impossible for the Suns to recover from the 2-1 deficit without him being at least 90 percent.
In his 16-year career, there have been three instances when Paul’s injuries kept his team from advancing to the next round of the postseason. If the Suns lose the series against the Lakers, this postseason will be added to that list.
#3 2015 Western Conference Semifinals: LA Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
Chris Paul was healthy throughout the regular season, playing in all 82 games for the LA Clippers. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit at the wrong time. The All-Star point guard sustained a hamstring injury in Game 7 of their first-round series.
Though the Clippers won the game with Chris Paul playing through injury, he would be sidelined for the next two games against the Houston Rockets in the next round.
The series was tied 1-1 in those two games, but even when Paul came back in Game 3, he was clearly no longer himself. He played 23 and 26 minutes in Games 3 and 4, respectively, as the Clippers took a commanding 3-1 series lead.
But the bottom fell out in the next three games as the Rockets came back from the deficit in historic fashion. Though Chris Paul played admirably in the three losses, one has to wonder if the series would have turned out differently had he been around in Game 2 when the Clippers lost a close game, 115-109.
#2 2016 Western Conference First Round: Portland Trail Blazers vs LA Clippers
The No. 4 seeded LA Clippers were up 2-1 over the No. 5 seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with Chris Paul averaging 26.3 points and 8.3 assists. Then, the unthinkable happened in Game 4.
Chris Paul suffered a broken right hand in the third quarter.
What made matters worse was Paul’s teammate Blake Griffin later aggravated a left quad injury and he went down as well. As a result, the Clippers lost 98-84 and the series was over from there.
Chris Paul was so frustrated that he kicked a seat cushion as he headed to the locker room and then refused to talk to reporters afterwards. The Clippers would lose the next two games of the series, leaving Paul and the organization wondering what could have been once again.
#1 2018 Western Conference Finals: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
The Rockets appeared to be headed to the NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 series lead with two chances to clinch it. But Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury in the final minute of their 98-94 win in Game 5.
Once again, the veteran guard would not speak to reporters following the game.
Chris Paul could only watch from the sidelines as the Warriors took Game 6 convincingly, 115-86. He would be ruled out of Game 7 as well, as their opponent handed them a 101-92 loss. Paul’s presence in either game, especially Game 7, would have made a huge difference.
Had they won, the Rockets would have faced LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers for the championship. It was the Warriors who went on to win the Finals in a sweep, leaving Chris Paul wondering what could have been.