DAN BICKLEY

Suns’ Chris Paul proving why he’s the best point guard in Dallas series

May 5, 2022, 1:05 PM | Updated: 1:31 pm
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Dallas Maveri...
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 121-114. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Chris Paul celebrates a birthday on Friday. CP3 becomes CP37.

Hoist a glass. Cross your fingers. It’s beginning to feel like the 2022 postseason will be a much-deserved, long-overdue coronation of one of the game’s greatest point guards. A tribute to one of the NBA’s most cutthroat competitors.

Paul is currently the MVP of the postseason. He’s been spectacular in four of the Suns’ six victories, closing out games with ruthless pedigree, drawing comparisons to Yankees superstar Mariano Rivera.

He completed a circle-of-life triumph with a first-round victory in New Orleans, where he spent the first six years of his career, where he finished off the Pelicans with a historic 14-for-14 shooting performance in the clinching game.

And on Wednesday at Footprint Center, he reminded the basketball community of a very important point: Luka Doncic might be a media darling and perennial MVP candidate, but he’s not the best point guard in this series.

To prove his point, Paul directed a savage frontal attack on Doncic in the later stages of Game 2, exposing the Mavericks superstar as a defensive liability at the highest level of basketball.

Imagine the collateral damage inside the Mavericks locker room, where their resident superstar was just targeted as the pigeon. The weak link. The object of predation.

Have fun with that, Dallas.

Paul has been described as an acquired taste. He is a transcendent talent who will flop, play dirty and exploit every loophole in order to win. It wasn’t a coincidence when the Pelicans’ Herb Jones famously refused Paul’s efforts to help him off the floor following a hard foul in the previous series.

Everyone in the NBA knows how far Paul will go to beat you on a basketball court. He would rather step on your throat than lend a helping hand.

For whatever reasons, Paul never received proper respect in last year’s MVP race. His dogged mentality has unlocked everything in Phoenix, resuscitating Deandre Ayton, elevating Devin Booker, empowering Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges.

The same disrespect is evident in the current postseason, when Kendrick Perkins claimed that Brandon Ingram was a better player in a first-round series; and another heat-seeking analyst chided Paul for taking advantage of an exhausted Doncic at the end of Game 2.

The implication is odious. The implication is that, unlike Doncic, Paul has enough talent around him to do as little as possible until he is absolutely needed, thereby cherry-picking his way to the finish line. It’s an absurd marginalization of what Paul brings to the court.

It’s also based on an uncomfortable truth.

Paul is only missing a ring at age 37 because his body keeps breaking down at the worst time, in the postseason, when basketball come at you hard and fast. And maybe this brand of fourth-quarter, pick-your-spots stardom is exactly what is needed to get Paul to the finish line. Even if it means occasional sideline flareups with head coach Monty Williams over playing time.

But this postseason is starting to feel different. It feels like the basketball gods are lining up in the name of justice. Like Kevin Garnett finally getting a championship in Boston.

Look around the NBA, where a seismic generational shift is underfoot. The greats and gatekeepers of yesteryear are beginning to fade. They are LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Carmelo Anthony. Maybe even Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.

A younger generation is taking over: Giannis, Booker, Doncic, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young and many others. Like playoff basketball, life comes at you fast.

But in the postseason of 2022, the present and the moment belong to CP3. The point guard who is now CP three years from 40. The one who might eventually displace Randy Johnson as the greatest acquisition in the history of Arizona sports.

The one currently teaching a masterclass in basketball. For the merciless.

Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Penguin Air
A fan waits for autographs before Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns to begin, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Fans wait for Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns to begin, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) knocks the ball away from Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) works the ball around Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell, left, and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, prepares for Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker lies on the court after he was fouled during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) works the ball past Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) looks to pass against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams hands off the ball during a break in the action during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives around Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) and Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scramble for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) and Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scramble for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a play during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes the ball down court past Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives around Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket past Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) and Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock, right, react after Paul was called for a foul during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives past Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, and Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) is blocked by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) as he drives to the basket during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) is blocked by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Referee Ben Taylor (46) separates Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, and Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, second from right, during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, and Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) scramble for a loose ball during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) scores over Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, left, and forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) is fouled by Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee, right, as he drives to the basket during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) passes around Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) is pressured by Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) and Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell, left, during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, center, pass the ball to teammate JaVale McGee (00) as he drives past Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd directs his players during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock, right, reaches out to teammates Dwight Powell, front, and Luka Doncic, center, and Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) looks on during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd reacts to a play during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Dallas Mavericks players react during the final moments of their loss to Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, right, celebrate a play against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game One of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 121-114. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot against Maxi Kleber #42 and Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 04, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 129-109. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Fans wait for Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns to begin, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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