He goes by the moniker The Point God. As if to indicate he’s the greatest point guard in the 75-year history of the NBA.
While that clearly is up for debate, there’s clearly no debate on the fact that anyone who goes up Chris Paul they clearly will have their hands full. The man clearly has his fingers on the pulse of his team – and the opposing team.
It’s almost as if Paul is clairvoyant and already knows what’s about to happen five or 10 seconds before it happens. That’s how wired the Phoenix Suns’ point guard is when it comes to the NBA.
“He’s a competitor, he loves to win and he’s a leader,” coach Jason Kidd said after Saturday’s practice session. “That’s it in a nut shell.
“But he loves the competition and he loves to win and he loves to put his team in a position to win.”
The Mavs and Suns will square off against each other on Monday at 9 pm CT in Phoenix in Game 1 of a best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series. How the Mavs make life miserable for Paul in this series will go a long way towards determining if they’ll be able to get past Phoenix and face the Golden State-Memphis survivor in the Western Conference Finals.
Also, it’s clear that Mavs point guard Luka Doncic has high admiration for Paul, who led the NBA in assists this season (10.8) and was second in steals (1.9).
“He’s amazing, man,” Doncic said. “He’s a hall of famer, he makes every team better than he was on. We really got to focus on him.”
So, is there a secret sauce to control Paul, who turns 37 on Friday?
“I think he’s controlling everything on the court, so he’s their leader,” Doncic said. “He’s a helluva player and we really have to make a great effort to stop him.”
Of course, designing plays to control Paul is Kidd’s job. And he was in no mood to reveal any company secrets in regards to his game plan.
“You don’t control him,” Kidd said. “You just try to make it tough. That’s all you can do.
“He’s been in the league, he’s seen all the different defenses. You just got to try to make it tough and you tip your hat when he makes a tough shot.”
Paul certainly has made it tough for opponents, especially in the fourth quarter when he has this penchant for taking over games. However, during a 122-113 victory over Golden State on March 3, the Mavs didn’t allow Warriors guard Stephen Curry to even get off a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
That was the only time in Curry’s illustrious 13-year career that he played the entire fourth quarter and did not attempt a field goal. Are the Mavs about to cook up the same medicine and serve it to Paul?
“That was the regular season,” Kidd said. “(Paul is) going to get shots. We just got to make them tough.”
In the Game 6 close-out contest against New Orleans this past Thursday, Paul made it tough on the Pelicans when he scored 33 points in 36 minutes and went 14-of-14 from the floor. That’s the most field goals made without a miss in NBA playoff history.
“It’s hard to slow him down,” Doncic said. “Like you saw in the last game (against the Pelicans), I didn’t miss. That was pretty crazy.
“But I think he answered every shot, be physical with him. It’s going to be hard to stop him.”
A 17-year veteran out of Wake Forest, Paul is a 12-time All-Star, a four-time first team All-NBA performer, a five-time second team All-NBA performer, a seven-time member of the NBA All-Defensive first team, and a two-time member of the NBA All-Defensive second team. He also has led the league in steals six times and in assists five times.
It’s as though the only sheepskin not on Paul’s tablecloth is an NBA championship. However, he did get the Suns to the NBA Finals last year, where they won the first two games of that best-of-seven series against the Milwaukee Bucks, only to lose the next four games and the series.
Kidd played eight seasons against Paul before retiring following the 2012-’13 season to go into coaching. So he’s been down digging in the trenches against the six-foot, 175-pound playmaker, and he knows it’s no walk in the park.
“I don’t know if a lot has changed, but he’s perfected the point guard position,” Kidd said. “As you get more reps and you see different defenses, you start to understand what you have to do. And he knows how to move the pieces to get that advantage.
“So when you talk about IQ, it’s off the charts. And then his competitiveness is off the charts, his will is off the charts. All of the things are off the charts. You just got to make it tough on him. It shows what his team needs, he tends to deliver.