The LA Clippers return home after getting a 1-1 split on the road against the Phoenix Suns for a pivotal Game 3.
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to Watch: Clippervison, Bally Sports SoCal, NBA TV
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – Eric Gordon – Kawhi Leonard – Nicolas Batum – Ivica Zubac
Suns: Chris Paul – Devin Booker – Torrey Craig – Kevin Durant – Deandre Ayton
Clippers: Paul George out (right knee)
Suns: Cameron Payne questionable (back)
The Big Picture
The LA Clippers came into this series as a major underdog with Paul George sidelined and the Suns ending the regular season rolling with a healthy lineup for the first time.
The series is now shifting to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 and with a sense of major optimism in Clipperland. Through about six quarters out of eight, the Clippers have looked like the better team. They’ve been sharper, they’ve been quicker, and their depth has played a big role.
Despite the Suns shooting lights out from the midrange in the second half of Game 2, the Clippers were still in the game until late in the fourth quarter. They competed and that’s all you can really ask of them. They’re at a major disadvantage with one of their primary scoring options out and heavily reliant on Kawhi Leonard’s shot creation.
That may not be such a bad problem to have, however. If Leonard was on fire to end the regular season, he’s close to reaching otherworldly status in the playoffs. He’s been the best player on the court through two games and has dealt with anything and everything the Suns have thrown at him.
One of the things that has hurt the Clippers though is some missed open three-point shots from the role players. Guys like Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland and Nicolas Batum have had good looks that they knock down in their sleep that just haven’t dropped. Perhaps the friendly confines of the Crypt might see some of those shots start to fall. Overall though, the bench lineups have not hurt the Clippers. They’ve outscored the Suns bench 54-21 through the first two games.
After Game 2, Tyronn Lue mentioned how the Clippers did what they set out to do and that was steal homecourt by getting a split on the road. He also said they feel very good about their chances to win this series.
The Phoenix Suns have some issues. Yes they managed to get a split and yes they looked incredibly good in the second half of Game 2. But they needed an absolutely phenomenal shooting game from two-point range and heavy minutes from their main guys to pull off a win that didn’t really feel as dominating as it should have been.
There were question marks about their bench and their depth heading into this series. Those questions have proven to be valid, especially with Cameron Payne still unable to play due to a back injury he suffered in the final days of the regular season.
One of the main adjustments Monty Williams made in Game 2 was to stagger his starters minutes so as not to have such a heavy reserve lineup in at any one point in the game. It worked, but it doesn’t seem like such practical plan for the duration of this series, especially with the Clippers able to get their key guys a breather here and there due to their superior bench.
The Suns do have Kevin Durant though, and he sure made his presence felt in Game 2, as did Devin Booker. While the two of them lived in the midrange, some of the shots they were getting were far too easy. When you have good midrange shooters like this duo, you have to make things more difficult. They can’t be allowed to simply dribble into a pull-up. That’s automatic money for them, as they showed. If they continue to get shots like that, they’ll continue to shoot that well.
It will be interesting to see what Lue comes up with to counter that. In any case, the Clippers should feel good about themselves with two upcoming games at home. This series has the potential to be arguably the best first round series in the West and the Crypt will certainly be popping.