As the final buzzer sounded, a stone-faced Chris Paul slowly walked off the court, down the tunnel and into the locker room.
His feel-good story with the Phoenix Suns was denied the happy ending he craved.
One of the NBA’s most accomplished players finally got to the sport’s biggest stage in his 16th season at 36 years old. He’s an 11-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA selection and nine-time All-Defensive selection and often referred to as the ‘Point God’ for his near-perfect profile as an elite point guard.
But he still lacks a championship.
Led by Giannis Antetokounnmpo’s amazing performance with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Suns 105-98 on Tuesday night to win the NBA Finals in six games.
The Suns won the first two games of the series only to lose four straight. It was a brutal collapse for a team led by Paul, who is regarded as one of the best leaders and point guards in NBA history.
Paul’s performance against the Bucks in these Finals ran the gamut: He was the hero in a Game 1 win with 32 points, then he was the goat in a Game 4 loss with five turnovers, including a particularly costly one in the final minute. In the decisive Game 6, he led the team with 26 points and added five assists.
It wasn’t enough.
With 40 seconds left and the Suns down 8, Paul’s desperation 3-pointer clanked off the rim.
Any chance at a miracle comeback was done.
Paul made the Finals run with an unlikely cast that included Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, young players making their first playoff appearances. He was traded to Suns during the past offseason from the Oklahoma City Thunder, bringing instant star power to a franchise that hadn’t been to playoffs in more than a decade and hadn’t made the Finals since 1993.
The trade paired Paul with coach Monty Williams, a close friend and mentor. Williams was the coach in New Orleans when Paul played for him 10 years earlier. The two had another chance to make it work.
It didn’t quite happen.