NBA Finals 2021: What Chris Paul's assist history tells us about his present challenge

Chris Paul is at a crossroads. Sixteen years into his remarkable NBA career, the Phoenix Suns' star guard is simultaneously the closest he has ever been to a title but also now one loss away from what could be considered his most bitter postseason disappointment.

By any measure, Paul is one of the best point guards to ever play the sport, and he's arguably the greatest passer of his era. But his passing has come up short at the most critical time. He's averaging 8.8 assists per game in the NBA Finals, barely lower than his average of 8.9 during the regular season, but his turnovers have skyrocketed from 2.2 to 3.6. In the two games in Milwaukee, Paul had nine turnovers against 16 assists. A large portion of that is due to the defense of Jrue Holiday and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, if Paul wants to force a Game 7 back home at Phoenix and give himself a chance to win his first career NBA championship, he'll need to perform like the player who has a well-deserved reputation as the grand master of the NBA chessboard. He's a player who has seen every defensive coverage and figured out how to beat them all. Paul is capable of using his dribble to snake through the scoring area and manipulate the arrangement of defenders before consistently making the right play for his team.

Throughout this season, Paul has conducted the Suns' offense with near-perfect precision, getting everyone involved on a nightly basis. He's the passer on the team's top four assister-scorer duos, and it doesn't matter if Paul is setting up a star or a role player; he gets them all buckets easily -- just not easily enough in a series the Suns trail 3-2, which has them facing elimination Tuesday night in Milwaukee (9 p.m. ET on ABC and the ESPN App).