Monty Williams has done an outstanding job of turning the Phoenix Suns around. Devin Booker continues to blossom into a superstar, and Deandre Ayton has made great strides on both ends of the floor from his rookie year.
Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that the biggest X-Factor for the Suns this season was Chris Paul's presence.
Paul helped them put an end to their playoff drought and finish with the second-best record in the league, winning 51 games in a 71-game season.
That's why it'll be crucial for him to be healthy if they want to stand a chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, as it showed last night during the second game of the series.
Paul barely played during the second half and was clearly limited with a shoulder injury, so coach Williams only sent him to the floor for 2:38 minutes in the fourth quarter despite it being a close game.
CP3 didn't even finish the game on the court, with Cameron Payne logging most of the minutes at point guard. Afterward, coach Williams took the blame for the loss and said that keeping him on the bench was a mistake:
“It was all me,” Williams said, as quoted by Bright Side of the Sun.“Just looking at him, holding his arm the way that he was holding it, I just couldn’t watch him run like that. He was trying to make plays, he battled. He’s a warrior, we all know that, and I just made a decision to take him out.”
It's clear that Paul is far from 100%. He refused to take shots he usually takes and committed several atypical mistakes coming from him.
That's been the story with him for most of his career. Hopefully, he'll be able to get back to at least 75% and keep the Suns' title hopes alive.