With three NBA championships under his belt, Mario Elie knows a thing or two about postseason success. Elie and the Houston Rockets both won their first title in 1993-94, and successfully defended their title in 1994-95, when he averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, while making 64.9% of his shots, 57.1% of his threes, and 90% of his free throws.
Elie also formerly played for the Phoenix Suns, who he had one of his most memorable moments against during the 1995 Western Conference Finals, which has been coined as the “Kiss of Death.” The 2020-21 version of the Suns have been led by former Houston Rockets star guard Chris Paul, who many believed deserved the MVP award, after he helped the Suns win 70.8% of their games, up from 46.6% in 2019-20.
Phoenix won their first two games of the NBA Finals at home, but lost both of their away games against the Milwaukee Bucks, setting the stage for a pivotal Game 5. With the Suns having gone 8-2 in Phoenix, many believed they would walk away with a victory and a 3-2 lead heading back to the Deer District in Game 6.
This was especially the expectation after the Suns jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first half. But the Bucks came storming back and ultimately stole a road victory, making them just one victory short of their second NBA title in franchise history and their first since 1971.
With Paul having led the way for Phoenix throughout the season and having been named to the All-NBA team, many placed the blame squarely on his shoulders for Milwaukee having come back from their early 0-2 deficit. But Elie spoke out against the notion that Paul bears the responsibility for Phoenix being on the brink of elimination, on Monday's episode of Sirius XM's No Look Pass.
Houston Rockets legend Mario Elie pushes back on those who blame Chris Paul for the Bucks' Finals comeback
“No. These are the ebbs and flows of the playoffs, you know? Guys have to step up.
Chris Paul had 21 and 11. And had 13 of the last 25 points in that Game 5. You can’t blame Chris Paul. He’s doing what he can, they’re really focusing their defense on him.
Jrue Holiday and P.J. Tucker are really being physical with Chris and it’s sort of wearing him down a little bit. But Chris Paul, knowing the point guard he is, he’s going to need to prove a point, in order for this series to continue.”
In Milwaukee’s 3 wins, Paul has averaged 16.7 points, 9 assists, and 3.3 turnovers, while making 52.4% of his shots and 44% of his threes.
In the two games that Phoenix won, Paul has averaged 27.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 4 turnovers, while making 56.4% of his shots and 58.3% of his 3-pointers. Elie also pointed out that the Suns' last two losses essentially came down to one or two plays, which was especially the case in Game 5, as Devin Booker had a pivotal turnover, which led to the go-ahead basket for the Suns.
In that game, Paul had 21 points, 11 assists, and just 1 turnover, further proving Elie's point that Paul shouldn't be blamed for Phoenix losing the contest.