In more than a century of popular spectacle sports, there are plays so confusing and sloppy they enter the lexicon, perhaps even more prominently than the many great achievements that championships offer. These exploded pieces gained nicknames when sports journalists were prone to such things at the turn of the 20th century, as “Merkel’s Boner”. More recently, their memory can be invoked with a single word, such as “Buckner”.
So what should we do with “Paul’s Push”?
It was to Chris Paul’s advantage that his moment of lack of ingenuity was surrounded by enough examples of Bucks shine and enough other Phoenix failures that the fatal blow he got brought to the Suns’ odds in Game 5 was ignored by many reports on the 2021 NBA Finals. What should have been his equivalent of JR Smith missing time for a draw in the 2018 Finals has become somewhat of a lost episode of an instant classic Bucks victory, which improved their series lead to 3-2 and placed game-winning potential for Game 6. on their home ground in Milwaukee.
Instead of endlessly hearing how Paul blew it up, we were repeatedly told the audacity of Bucks goalie Jrue Holiday as he snatched the ball from Devin Booker’s hands as the Suns chased a finished basket. an exchange from a second of 13 points. half-deficit in the last half-minute of the match. Focusing on the positive is not negative, but it did mitigate Paul’s reckless choice to deliberately foul Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo as he threw Holiday’s lob pass with 13, 5 seconds remaining.
Paul has drawn more criticism for the merits of his fault than the consequence, but perhaps there is a deeper connection there. In a career of public basketball performance that dates back to his time as an All-American at Wake Forest, when there was an opportunity to choose between the available chicane and the pursuit of a championship, Paul strayed from the side of the error.
His foul against Antetokounmpo was an excruciating decision on many levels. The Bucks were trailing by a single point when Booker was stripped, and Holiday opted to lob at Giannis rather than wait to be fouled and forced to make two free throws. Paul was the only player near the goal as the pass flew, but at 6-0 with meager jumps he had virtually no chance of stopping that lane from being open, strong. Paul pushed Antetokounmpo, anyway.
So instead of the Suns taking a timeout after the score, advancing the ball to the frontcourt and working with over a dozen seconds towards a 3-point equalizer, they watched Antetokounmpo head to the line for a throw. decisive frank. He missed, badly, but the ball was so far off target it shot back at the shooter before a Suns player had a good chance to react and block. Antetokounmpo flipped the ball back, where it was picked up by teammate Khris Middleton, and he sank the blow.
“Everyone expects a dud,” said Paul. “Hell, even he is.”
Antetokounmpo wouldn’t have been able to miss if Paul hadn’t put him there.
It is not lost against former NC State All-American Julius Hodge, drafted with the 20th pick in the same NBA Draft in 2005 in which Paul became No. 4 overall. Hodge’s career in the NBA ended in two years, but he played professionally for a decade in countries like Italy, Australia and France and is now an assistant coach in San Jose State.
When he saw Paul’s Push he wasn’t surprised at all and tweeted, “This. guy. fair. can not. help. himself! “
Hodge was there, and it was painful. As the Wolfpack’s senior winger in his last regular season game against Wake and Paul, Hodge was punched below the belt by Paul’s fist after the two battled for a rebound. Hodge called it, at the time, “without prompting.” This led to Paul being suspended by Wake for an ACC tournament quarterfinal game, which the deacons lost, relegating them to the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament rather than No. 1. and thus to play the No. 7 seed in West Virginia in the second round of March Madness. The Demon Deacons lost to Kevin Pittsnogle and the Mountaineers in double overtime.
The team that secured Wake’s No.1 seed, Duke, had finished two games behind the Deacs in the ACC standings. The national title winning team, North Carolina, suffered 13 Wake points in a regular season game. So, the most baffling element of this episode, aside from Hodge’s obvious discomfort, is that Paul seemed to learn so little.
Paul is arguably one of the greatest pointers in NBA history, with 11 All-Star Game appearances and 10 All-NBA caps, but his teams’ record in the NBA Playoffs is 10-13. It feels less like a misfortune every time a play like Paul’s Push performs.
It happened very often so that it was considered a coincidence or an accident.
Although he and LeBron James are extremely close, James at least twice was left in some degree of pain following an intersection with Paul, in a February 2019 battle for a rebound that Paul could have been able to do. being called up, under NCAA rules, for a “hook-and-hold” at James’ curious box-out attempt in this year’s playoffs that ended with the Lakers star on the ground holding his shoulder. “He got undermined,” ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said on the broadcast.
None of this had as much of a consequence as the match against Antetokounmpo. It was the highlight in one of the biggest games possible. To his credit, The Big Lead writer Liam McKeone described Paul’s decision as “the worst thing he could have done under the circumstances.” ESPN’s Max Kellerman called him, via Twitter, “Just a terrible mistake.”
Chris Paul’s fault on Giannis was the killer. Worse than Booker’s turnover, because there at least Jrue Holiday made a play. Just a terrible blunder. #NBAFinales
– Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) July 18, 2021
There was no better way to describe it, because it was horrible, and it was a blunder. When the biggest games of his career have come up, that’s too often what Paul has delivered.