Chris Paul didn’t mention the Houston Rockets by name, but the implication made it fairly clear. “A couple years ago, they was writing me off,” said Paul, who was traded away 23 months ago. “You can’t do this.”
As it turned out, Paul certainly could do this. On Sunday, the future Hall of Famer had a game-high 37 points and 7 assists on incredible 14-of-19 shooting (73.7%) from the field, leading Phoenix past Denver (box score) in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. The win, which secured a series sweep for the Suns, means that the “Point God” will play in the conference finals for just the second time in his storied career.
His first trip was in 2018, with the Rockets. That playoff run finished in heartbreak, with Paul’s season ending abruptly with a hamstring strain in the final seconds of a Game 5 victory in the conference finals — which had put Houston just one game away from knocking off defending champion Golden State. Without Paul, though, they couldn’t seal the deal.
Paul suffered another Grade 2 hamstring strain early in the ensuing season, and he was never quite the same in the 2018-19 regular season or the 2019 playoffs. That offseason, Houston traded Paul and a significant amount of future draft considerations to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook, reportedly due to a demand by James Harden. A year later, the Thunder entered into a rebuild and dealt Paul to the Suns.