The LA Clippers made the Suns work for this one but could not get over the hump in the fourth quarter. Devin Booker was ultimately able to hold the Clippers at an arm’s length, with an explosive 38 point performance. Check out our recap below:
At one point, the Clippers held a 13 point led but went into halftime even with the Suns, 59-59. LA was led by an efficient (6/9) 17 points from Russell Westbrook and 16 from Kawhi Leonard. But the team’s efficiency as a whole was not great—just 43.5% from the field—which held throughout the game.
Through two quarters, Suns were, unsurprisingly, led by their big three—Durant, Booker, and Ayton—who had 16, 13, and 12 respectively. What’s more, the whole Suns roster was efficient, shooting 57% from the field and 50% from three in the first half. Like the Clippers’ shooting trend, this held for the Suns.
The Suns put up back-to-back 30+ point quarters in the second half, while the Clippers averaged just 25. The Clippers were able to keep themselves in the game by getting to the free throw line; they had 19 free throw attempts in the second round and made 17 of them. The Suns only got to the line eight times (and made seven).
The Clippers tried to go small a times tonight, as the Suns were trying to put Zubac in actions, but the small-ball was very-small-ball. But, really, what the Clippers did on defense did not matter much. The Suns—especially Booker—hit tough shots all night, shooting 72% in the mid-range area. It is extremely hard to beat a team shooting that well, especially when you only shoot 36% from three yourself, as the Clippers did tonight.
Paul George Update: Per the Clippers’ beat writers, before the Clippers’ shoot around, Paul George was seen working out. He was doing “movement work” as well running through a traditional conditioning workout with some shooting (pull-ups, coming off screens, and catch-and-shoot). He was, of course, ruled out for Game 2, but it was encouraging to see PG in action. You can read more in Andrew Greif’s article here.
Bench Scoring: In Game 1, the Clippers’ bench outscored the Suns’ reserves 34-8. Tonight, the advantage just was 20-13. Whether it’s better efficiency from Bones Hyland (who went 2/7 from the field and 0/4 from three) or more attempts for Norman Powell (just 11 shots in 28 minutes), the Clippers needs to punish the Suns’ lack of depth by getting more (efficient) scoring from the bench.
Nicolas Batum, Où es-tu?: Nicolas Batum brings a lot to the team beyond scoring, but the Clippers really do need his shotmaking in this series. Through two games, he is 1/7 from the field (all three point attempts). He is also playing just 20 minutes; he might be playing more—especially when the Clippers go small—if he can hit shots more reliably.
Minutes Watch: Although the Suns ultimately won this game by 14, the game was close(-ish) until about the four minute mark. That required Monty Williams to play Durant and Ayton to each play 45 minutes, with Chris Paul logging 38. The Clippers’ did not have a 40+ minute player, and they only had one player over 40 in Game 1 (Kawhi). Notably, Game 3 is Thursday evening and Game 4 is quickly thereafter—Saturday at 12:30pm. While the Clippers have historically been a bad early-game team, the Suns may be worse off, given how much their stars have to play each game.
That about does it for this recap of the Clippers’ Game 2 loss to the Suns. As always, check out The Lob The Jam The Podcast and Clips ‘N Dip for analysis throughout the week, and follow us on Twitter to watch the game with us!