MILWAUKEE — The closest Chris Paul has ever come to the coveted championship that’s eluded him throughout his 16-year career ended up leaving him feeling still so far away from that initial title. The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, as the Suns became just the fifth team in Finals history to lose after starting the series up 2-0.
“It will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality,” Paul said after the Bucks’ 105-98 series clincher. “Get back to work. I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s out. So, back to work.”
Paul, 36, finished with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting and five assists in the championship finale, keeping the Suns in striking distance of Milwaukee — they trailed by just four points with 1:14 remaining — but it wasn’t enough to force a Game 7 back in Phoenix.
“Right now, you’re just trying to figure out what you could have done more,” Paul said. “It’s tough. Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while.”
Paul has a player option worth $44.2 million for next season, and while plenty of contenders around the league could use a point guard of his ilk to make a push next season — hello, Los Angeles Lakers — he didn’t sound like someone looking to leave a team stocked with young talent like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton that took him two wins from the promised land that quickly.
“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough,” Paul said. “So, we got to figure it out. I think for me, I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”
Cleveland, if we don’t have it, we will be quickly reminded about the details. And if you don’t want to give it your all right now, what can happen and this feeling right now that we’re feeling can happen.
“So, this isn’t something you want to feel. I haven’t felt a hurt like this in my life. So, that’s what I say when I know we have a base and a foundation, just championship basketball at all times.”
Williams fought back tears during his postgame remarks when asked what it was like in the moment to process the result of a Suns season that fell just short.
“I think it’s going to take me a minute,” Williams said, with a catch in his voice. “I just don’t take it for granted. It’s hard to get here, and I wanted it so bad, you know. It’s hard to process right now. It’s hard. That’s all.”
Summing up the alchemy of the group, however, it wasn’t all sorrow for the team that ousted the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, swept league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, eliminated the LA Clippers and gave the Bucks all they could handle with a title on the line.
“Even though we lost,” Ayton said as he bounded out of the interview room, “it was still fun.”