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The rise of Giannis’ Bucks cemented the latest Chris Paul postseason frustration

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The Splash Bros haven’t played together since 2019 and Chris Paul is STILL ringless? That’s tough.

2021 NBA Finals - Game Six

The Golden State Warriors finished with the West’s 8th best record but failed to make the playoffs (whoever made that play-in tournament really does need to be fired). Since then, Dub Nation has had one eye on the draft and the other on an entertaining but bizarre NBA postseason. There were several landscape altering injuries to All-Stars, while teams like Utah and Philadelphia turned in collapses worthy of documentary treatment from SB Nation.

Now while I’d much rather have been rooting for my hometown Golden State squad in the championship round, they can’t make the finals every year. After 5 straight seasons of ruining the NBA and destroying other franchises, it wasn’t so bad to kick back with some Hennessy and observe who would emerge from the scrap heap to claim the throne. Besides, over the years Warriors fans have had PLENTY of practice picking players to root for or hate after the Dubs were eliminated (did anybody else moonlight as an honorary Spurs supporter during their battles with Shaq and Kobe? Or was that just me lmao).

Here’s some gold-blooded musings on Milwaukee’s ascent, Chris Paul’s latest postseason collapse, and how Giannis Antetokounmpo’s development can give Dub Nation hope for James Wiseman. Let’s get it!

FEAR THE DEER

A massive swath of Dub Nation was pleased to watch the Milwaukee Bucks overcome an 0-2 deficit in the NBA Finals to blot out the Phoenix Suns, giving Milwaukee their first championship since the days of Kareem Abul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. After they (BARELY) prevented the nuclear warhead Kevin Durant from doing the unthinkable and winning without the Splash Bros, it was satisfying to see the Bucks knock off Phoenix and longtime GSW nemesis Chris Paul.

I’ll get back to CP3 slander in a minute. The Bucks roaring back from down 0-2 in the championship round put the exclamation point on a resilient postseason journey that saw them trail in every round except the first. They won the first title in a post-bubble world behind a physical defense, timely shots from role players, and a superhuman performance from the two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

50 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks in a closeout game is BONKERS. He averaged 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists for the series on 61% shooting from the field. His defensive prowess and size repeatedly walled off the Suns from quality scoring opportunities.

He joined Stephen Curry as one of twelve players with two MVP’s and a title. It’s funny that both men have been referred to as sidekicks despite their dominant resumes. In reality, they’re two titans who made good on vows they made to their cities to end decades long championship droughts. And they both did it with an infectious excitement for the game; weaponizing joy at the highest levels.

There were some other parts of the team Warriors fans could applaud and identify with as well. Khris Middleton has those Klay Thompsonish tendencies of drilling extremely tough jumpers over anybody; Jrue Holiday is a defensive dynamo and playmaker who much like Draymond Green may not always score the ball at a high clip but can wreck an opponent’s offense. Plus Stanford guy Brook Lopez finally got his championship and P.J. Tucker was finally rewarded for his years of masterful grunt work.

Hilarious that Tucker helped Antetokounmpo wipe out James Harden’s season considering Harden had previously joked that the Greek Freak’s brutish, dunk-heavy playing style required zero skill. Only a few weeks removed from suffering what at first appeared to be a season ending knee injury, Antetokounmpo ended up scoring more points in a playoff game than Harden ever has.

Wait, are CP3’s State Farm commercials predicting the future?

When I first got my start here at GSOM in 2017, I got into a bit of hot water with...basically all Houston Rockets fans after I wrote a series of articles roasting them to death for being fraudulent. One of them included a deep-dive into Curry’s rivalry with Paul on the eve of the 2018 playoffs. These two are frenemies who have a long history dating back to their roots as North Carolina boys, and Paul’s Clippers were the last Western Conference team to eliminate the Warriors before the dynasty began.

Legendary NBA writer Marcus Thompson, author of “Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry” once wrote:

Curry got to this level in part because of his rivalry with Paul. Over the years, no opponent has been more of a motivator for Curry than Paul. No point guard has pushed Curry to improve his game as Paul has.

It was the standard set by CP3, the clashes they shared through the developing of the Warriors-Clippers rivalry, that fueled Curry in the crafting of his transcendent game.

“It sure was,” Curry said. ‘Still does.”

All that competitive beef made Curry’s stratospheric ascent above Paul extremely satisfying for Warriors fans, and this was BEFORE Paul was hella petty and tried to boot Curry off a practice session during the playoffs.

Add in CP3’s frequent propensity for bizarre flopping antics, and it just makes it hard for me to root for the guy. Which is a trip because CP3 is hella good at basketball (they don’t call him “point god” for nothing). His impact on the Suns this season was definitely a positive one, helping carry the franchise to their first Finals trip since the Charles Barkley days.

When Phoenix took that 2-0 lead it seemed like the future hall-of-famer was finally going to seize the throne he had been deprived of for so long. But Milwaukee chased them down and wiped out his championship dreams. CP3 averaged a quality 21.8 points and 8.2 assists, but struggled in key moments against Holiday’s swarming defensive pressure. Paul just couldn’t consistently find breathing room against Milwaukee and his team suffered for it.

The 36-year old guard showed he still clearly has some gas left in the tank, but at this point his playoff past is looking like the rap sheet of the unluckiest player in the world. Check out this Stat Muse graphic on CP3 becoming the first player to ever blow four 2-0 leads in a best-of-7 series:

When I saw those stats, it suddenly dawned on me that Paul’s ubiquitous commercials showing non-stop tragedies occurring wherever he goes are actually a sad ode to his championship hopes. Both Jake from State Farm and Devin Booker were powerless to prevent the worst case scenario from happening to the beleaguered hooper. Do you remember that one ad where a literal BUCK completely destroys his garage? C’mon man! That’s a little too on the nose to be a coincidence.

Perhaps we should have known the secret predictive power of Paul’s tragic alter ago Cliff Paul many moons ago when we saw his commercial where Curry was smugly rising on an escalator while a shocked CP3 was descending. State Farm knows!

Can Wiseman one day be Warriors’ own version of Greek Freak?

Watching Antetokounmpo repeatedly crush the Phoenix Suns on the interior reminded me of why the Warriors picked the 7-foot youngster James Wiseman at the #2 spot in the 2020 draft. Golden State needs a physically gifted freak of their own to both wreak havoc on other teams and help fortify the defense against that monster in Milwaukee.

Wiseman definitely had a tough rookie season, but if we recall that Antetokounmpo was once an overmatched 19-year old in the NBA hungry to find his way, we can see why the GSW braintrust has big hopes for their big fella. Hopefully Wiseman’s development can help him one day attack the league the same way Antetokounmpo got him in the rook’s “welcome to the NBA” moment.

The Phoenix Suns are a superb young team, but I don’t fear them if the Warriors are healthy. Considering how much of the West is wounded and wobbly, I feel quite confident the Dubs will be in title contention. And it looks like Vegas agrees with me.

But Milwaukee is a team that will be giving the NBA fits for the foreseeable future as long as they employ that near 7-footer who runs like a wide receiver and scores with brute force like a young Shaquille O’Neal. The Bucks have come along way since being a mediocre squad that celebrating giving the 73-win Warriors their first loss of the 2015-2016 season. Ugh, remember those “24-1” t-shirts they wore? Hilariously disrespectful.

Enjoy the title parade, Milwaukee!