For years, the right elbow has been Chris Paul’s favorite spot from the floor. When it’s crunch time, his favorite play is to work his way off of the pick-and-roll and pull-up for that 15-foot jumper, particularly against drop coverage, taking advantage of the sinking big and shooting before his man can get back to fully contest.
It’s not something new — take a look at this shot chart from the 2014-15 season — but it still befuddles defenses.
Chris Paul has owned that right elbow for years. pic.twitter.com/1lPrEnMWOO
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) June 14, 2021
Part of that is because that is the shot that defenses are alright with conceding, because for most players it’s a low efficiency shot. For Paul — and, increasingly, Devin Booker — it is a high efficiency shot and he routinely kills teams with it in the fourth quarter. Because of how easily he can seemingly get a decent look from there and how good he is at shooting it, many have wondered why he doesn’t go to it more often. The answer is partly that he doesn’t want defenses to adjust and take that away before crunch time when he knows he can get there and get a bucket, but as he’s gotten older it’s also a matter of preserving his energy.
In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, however, Paul smelled blood in the water with a 3-0 lead and recognized an opportunity to get possibly a full week of rest with a win. Knowing a win put the Suns in the conference finals with the Jazz and Clippers seemingly locked in a tight series, Paul did what many have hoped he would do more often and went to his pet play earlier in the game, torching the Nuggets for 37 points on a flat out ridiculous 14-of-19 shooting. Just watch this supercut of Paul getting to almost the same spot — his last one he drew Jokic deeper and went to a baseline shot just to get a little added flavor — over and over, absolutely cooking Denver en route to a win and a sweep.
Eight consecutive Chris Paul mid-range jumpers in less than 10 game minutes, all from the same side of the floor. pic.twitter.com/PMF76HI6iW
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 14, 2021
It doesn’t matter what Denver does or how the Suns constructed the pick-and-roll, Paul was going to get to that spot to rise and fire. He got there off of screens to the right, screens to the left, and double drags. He faced drop and blitzes, guys going over and under, and it simply didn’t matter. It was a virtuoso performance from one of basketball’s all-time great maestros. Paul, at 36 years old, is seemingly at the peak of his powers when it comes to controlling a game and in Game 4, that meant taking over as a scorer to get his team to the conference finals, spamming the same play over and over to get what he wanted every time.