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July 2, 2021

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Paul stars as Suns reach finals

Monty Williams wasn’t named NBA Coach of the Year, but he has something more monumental — a trip to the NBA Finals.

While Chris Paul was emotional after the Phoenix Suns eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers 130-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night, Williams was taking joy in seeing his players celebrate.

“I really enjoyed watching him and his emotions after the game. I was like, I must be getting old now because I’m enjoying watching other people,” Williams said. “It used to be about me. Now, I’m looking at everybody else having a good time and I’m like, man, I’m getting old.”

Williams and Paul hugged after the game and took in the moment. Even though there were plenty of tears from Paul, there were none from Williams.

“It’s just authentic. I just felt like hugging him. I think his parents were right behind us and he was emotional,” Williams said. “I felt for him. I had my emotional time before the game.”

While Paul’s 16-year journey to his first NBA Finals will be one of the integral storylines, Williams also deserves his plaudits. When he was named coach on May 3, 2019, the Suns had just come off a 19-63 season in which they tied for the league’s second-worst record.

Two years later, Phoenix broke a 10-year playoff drought by finishing with the league’s second-best mark (51-21) in a pandemic-shortened season. Phoenix is just the third team in the last 45 years to improve from having one of the league’s two worst records to a top-two mark in two seasons or less.

The Suns eliminated the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, swept league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in four in the semifinals and dispatched the Clippers in six to reach the NBA Finals for the third time in franchise history. Williams showed last season he had a good nucleus of young talent with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton after improving by 15 wins. By adding Jae Crowder and Paul, it put them over the top, along with an additional improvement of 17 wins.

Along with having home-court advantage, the Suns should be plenty rested going into the NBA Finals. If the Eastern Conference finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks end in six games, the series will begin on Tuesday.


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