Epic night from Chris Paul holds off Clippers, lifts Suns into NBA Finals

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LOS ANGELES — One last run was coming and everyone in Staples Center knew it.

All playoffs long, whenever the Clippers’ backs were against the wall, no matter who they had left standing, they made a big push — this is the most resilient team in franchise history.

It came late in the third quarter, a 10-0 run that had Stapes Center rocking and owner Steve Ballmer losing all sense of personal space. The Clippers had trailed by as many as 17 but the lead was down to seven and this was it — if there was to be a Game 7, it was because the Clippers had one more comeback.

Then Chris Paul took over.

Paul had a personal 8-0 run and scored 24-of-30 to end the Clippers’ chances and their season.

In a building where freak injuries and occurrences kept him from lifting the Clippers to the same heights, Chris Paul lived up to his Point God reputation — 41 points on 16-24 shooting, 31 of those points in the second half, 7-of-8 from 3, eight assists. CP3 scored or assisted on 59 points.

And for the first time in his career, Paul is headed to the NBA Finals.

In the end, the Suns won 130-103 to take Game 6 and with it the Western Conference Finals 4-2.

Phoenix is headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. Those Finals will begin next Tuesday or Thursday (depending upon how long the Atlanta vs. Milwaukee series goes, it is currently tied 2-2).

Phoenix saved its best basketball of the series for the biggest game in its season.

From the opening tip, the Suns looked like themselves again with player and ball movement, guys cutting and driving, things that had escaped them in recent games. They just looked sharp.

It helped that Chris Paul came out more aggressive. The Clippers had played off him this series, trying to make him a jump shooter, and in Game 6 he drove into that space and attacked like a much younger version of himself. Early on, Paul also was getting the ball to Deandre Ayton in deep position, and the big man started 5-of-6 from the floor, punishing the Clippers small, switching lineups (Los Angeles went away from the zone they had used last game, which the Suns had started to figure out).

All that gave the Suns a four-point lead after one, but a feisty Clippers team was hanging around.

Phoenix’s lead stretched out to nine by the half because the threes kept falling — 10-of-17 overall for Phoenix in the first half, with Jae Crowder leading the way shooting 4-of-6. The Clippers would have been down by more if not for a strong first half from Marcus Morris, who had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting (he would finish the game with 26 points to lead Los Angeles).

“I think we just ran out of gas,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said, hinting at the fact the Clippers had played every other day since June 2 without a break. “When you get tired, the first things that breaks down is mentally. In the first half, we just had a lot of mistakes. We just didn’t have it.”

The Clippers also didn’t have Kawhi Leonard, out with a knee sprain all series, and this was a game where he was needed more than most.

Early in the second half the Suns kept growing the lead, little by little, and the ultimate result felt more and more inevitable as the lead climbed near 20.

But everyone knew that run was coming. Paul George helped sparked the run, and he finished with 21, while Reggie Jackson had 13.

Chris Paul and the Suns withstood it.

“We’ve talked about poise with this team for a long time, and tonight that paid off,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.

Not all the Clippers maintained their poise — Patrick Beverley was ejected for a cheap shove in the back of Chris Paul midway through the fourth quarter. Not even Beverley was going to argue that one (and he will argue anything). It was his frustration spilling over.

The Suns earned this win. They were the better team for much of the series and showed plenty of grit and heart of their own.

And Chris Paul was not going to let them lose.

“I just been on the other end of so many losses, I knew how that feels. Jae [Crowder] and I talked before the game, we had put in the work,” Paul said.

He felt it was his time, the Suns’ time.

It was.

And for the first time, Chris Paul is in the NBA Finals.

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal”, since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.