Chris Paul is averaging 17 points in the playoffs, a seven year low. His 13 shots are a career low. You’ll never see the 50% shooting Chris Paul again. He’s too old for that. But 26% from three (against the Warriors) is killing the Rockets, particularly since Chris Paul is the recipient of James Harden double teams.
His assists which are the Chris Paul specialty are in the tank. Remember those 9 and 10 and 11 assists playoff games? Remember the Point God, as he used to be called? That’s over. This Chris Paul, the aging Chris Paul robbing the Rockets bank, is playing like a third option when he is supposed to be a second option. The scary thing is that he is going to make $44 million when he is 37 years old.
The Rockets lack the talent of the Warriors. They have good players who give effort like P.J. Tucker, and players who go on scoring binges like Eric Gordon and Gerald Green, and the glue guys like Nene and Austin Rivers. But they don’t have enough elite players and so the players who are dominant at their position have to act like it.
When he was CP3 there were never rumblings about him cheating the game with effort, not doing enough, not taking over. But Chris Paul has slipped into the back of his career. We needed the playoffs to show us what we don’t want to know or see. Chris Paul is no longer a top tier point guard. And CP3 is missing in action.
The grand irony of the whole situation is that the Rockets signed Chris so he could help James Harden overcome his playoff woes. Now it is James Harden who has to help Chris.
In the playoffs last year, before he was injured, CP3 averaged 21 points and drained 36% of his threes. The Rockets are a high volume three point shooting team. Threes are what they do best. Because threes and layups center their offense, when the shots aren’t going in the Rockets are in trouble. It’s not as if their offense is filled with versatility. The Rockets are going to live or die this way and so far it’s been the same old Rockets thing where beating the Warriors in the playoffs feels more like a fantasy than an it can happen reality.
First, the Rockets are not playing harder than the Warriors which is the biggest surprise since all year they have been gunning for this matchup and talking about how they are gunning for this matchup. Before the series began, most would have said Chris Paul was the Rockets toughest player. But he’s playing like he’s a subordinate to James Harden, like he is supposed to filter everything through Harden. It wasn’t how he played against Utah. Maybe it had something to do with Donovan Mitchell and Chris being his mentor that he wanted to perform. But so far, Chris hasn’t been a factor. It’s been James Harden- bleeding eye or not, jammed up by the refs or not- and an average Chris.
Playoff excellence is simple. You dial it up more in the postseason. If you can surpass the regular season, despite the schemes, then you’re a baller. The playoffs give you fame. It has been the playoffs where CP3 has come up short. He goes at it hard and then he gets injured. Or, he goes at it hard and he loses a 3-1 series lead.
If Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can dominate in the playoffs from the backcourt why can’t James Harden and Chris Paul?
Is Chris hiding an injury? Is that why his three point shot is off? He will never say, and no one will know until after the playoffs are over. Or, is this just the older version of CP3?
Of his banana boat club, he is the only one in the playoffs. Melo is unemployed and fantasizing about the Knicks. LeBron is filming Space Jam 2, and Dwyane Wade is retired. It’s on Chris to show he can find a way to get to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. He has pressure. The Rockets have to win.
For Game 3 in Houston, the Rockets need a transformation. They need Chris Paul to not be Chris Paul. CP3 has to show up and show out.