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Chris Paul scores 41 as Suns beat Clippers, reach first NBA Finals since 1993

Chris Paul scores 41 as Suns beat Clippers, reach first NBA Finals since 1993
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (R) lifts the Western Conference Finals Trophy next to teammates after winning Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE

July 1 (UPI) -- Chris Paul scored a playoff career-best 41 points to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 130-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and into the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly three decades.

Paul, who is searching for his first championship in his 16th season, helped the Suns pull away with 19 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday at Staples Center. He also notched a team-best eight assists, four rebounds and three steals as Phoenix clinched its third Finals berth in team history and first since 1993.

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The Suns will play the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks. That best-of-seven series is tied at two games apiece.

"I was on a don't-lose mission," Paul said. "Just a lot of emotion. A lot of [expletive] going on. ... I'm just so happy for all the people around me."

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Suns star guard Devin Booker -- playing without a mask for a majority of the game -- added 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win. He sustained a broken nose earlier in the series and wore a mask after the injury, but he started Wednesday's game without one before equipping it late in the second half with the outcome determined.

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"This is what we set out to get tonight, so we didn't want to go back to Phoenix without it," Booker said during the trophy presentation.

Jae Crowder scored 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range for the Suns. Deandre Ayton recorded 16 points and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes.

Marcus Morris Sr. led the Clippers with 26 points and nine rebounds. Paul George had 21 points and nine rebounds but shot 6-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point territory.

Reggie Jackson notched 13 points, while Patrick Beverley chipped in 11 points and three assists. DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points in 14 minutes off the bench.

The Suns, who last reached the playoffs in 2010, are the first team to reach the Finals after a 10-year playoff drought.

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In Phoenix's last trip to the Finals in 1993, Charles Barkley and the Suns lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games. Before that, the Suns lost to the Boston Celtics in six games in 1976.

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