There’s no easy route to a championship when you play in the Western Conference, something veteran Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul is well aware of.
Paul has never made it to the NBA Finals, despite being on multiple contending squads and playing in more than 100f postseason games. The 36-year-old point guard has helped lead a massive turnaround in Phoenix and the Suns will be either the No. 1 or 2 seed for the postseason. With two games left, the Suns are just one game back of the first-place Utah Jazz.
The reward for finishing at the top of the standings this season isn’t great, with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and streaking Golden State Warriors lurking.
Paul was asked by TNT host Charles Barkley about the prospect of a tough first-round matchup — specifically against the Lakers or Warriors — after beating the Trail Blazers.
“I’ve been in the West my whole career,” Paul said. “West ain’t never been easy. I don’t care who you playing, or what series it is, or what game it is. When I played in New Orleans I was in a division with Memphis, Houston with Yao and T-Mac, and Dallas when they were nice with Dirk and Stackhouse and all them. The West has always been a beast. When you try to match up with someone else, you can get it handed it you. You can’t duck nobody if you really think that you can win it all. You got it go through it.”
“The West always been a beast.”
CP3 talked about how tough the West is when asked about how the Suns could face the Lakers or Warriors in the first round. pic.twitter.com/puafMIX7fj
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 14, 2021
Lakers Trying to Avoid Play-in Situation
The Suns did the Lakers a favor by pulling off the thrilling win against the Blazers, giving LA an outside shot of snagging the No. 6 and avoiding the play-in tournament. The Lakers need to win out to have a shot, while Portland (one game left) and Dallas (two games left) need to lose.
DALLAS VS. LAL scenarios (same as POR, with both holding the tiebreaker):
– If DAL goes 3-0 or 2-1, they finish ahead of LAL.
– If DAL goes 1-2, LAL have to go 3-0.
– If DAL goes 0-3, LAL could go 2-1.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) May 12, 2021
But if it came down to it, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel isn’t scared of putting his team up against anyone.
“For me, I’m unafraid of the play-in tournament with this team,” Vogel said, per Silver Screen & Roll. “But we definitely want to finish in the top-six. There’s just too many things that can happen in a one-game series: foul trouble, a rolled ankle, anything like that could pop up. We definitely want to finish in the top-six, it’s high priority for us, but at the same time, I’m confident in our group.”
Lakers Getting Healthy for Playoff Run
For the first time in a long time, the Lakers are nearing full health, just in time for the postseason. The Lakers are expected to have LeBron James, Dennis Schroder and even veteran Jared Dudley back in the lineup for the final two games of the season. The Lakers take on Indiana on Saturday and New Orleans on Sunday.
“AD is starting to get healthy, Bron is getting back to his normal self, and we’ll get Dennis back and we’ll get rolling again,” Lakers guard Alex Caruso said this week. “For us, it’s just about getting to the point where we’re playing our best basketball a couple weeks from now.”
The Lakers were once the favorite to repeat but have seen their odds have plummetted of late. The Lakers are +500 to win it all, still second behind only the superstar-laden Brooklyn Nets (+200).
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