The LA Clippers will head into Phoenix to face the Suns on Tuesday night, looking to keep their season alive. Continue reading for our Clippers Suns Game 5 preview.

Game Information

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

When: 7:00 p.m. PT

How to Tune in: TNT, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

Clippers: Russell Westbrook – Eric Gordon – Norman Powell – Marcus Morris – Ivica Zubac

Suns: Chris Paul – Devin Booker – Kevin Durant – Torrey Craig – Deandre Ayton

Injury Report

Clippers: Kawhi Leonard (Knee) – OUT, Paul George (Knee) – OUT

Suns: Cameron Payne (Back) – PROBABLE

The Big Picture

Win or go home; it doesn’t get much simpler than that. Much like the 2021 Western Conference Finals against these same Phoenix Suns, the LA Clippers head into Footprint Center in a do-or-die Game 5 scenario. Similar to then, they’ll need the heroics of someone to live to see another day. Will it be Kawhi Leonard? It won’t be. Despite head coach Ty Lue being non-commital regarding Leonard’s status for Game 5  during Monday’s media availability, he was officially ruled OUT not long after. Of course, Leonard missed Games 3 and 4 with knee swelling and an officially diagnosed “knee sprain,” so his availability for a potential Thursday Game 6 shouldn’t be counted on either.

Paul George, the hero of the Clippers’ last two Game 5s, is ramping up his on-court involvement at Clippers practices. He hasn’t played a basketball game in nearly five weeks due to his own knee injury, and he won’t play this Tuesday, either. That leaves some others who’ve tried like hell to save the day in recent games but come up short — Russell Westbrook has played outstandingly for nearly the entire series, and Norman Powell almost went blow-for-blow with Booker in Game 3 to the tune of a playoff career-high 42 points. They’ll need to bring some of their best stuff again if they want to get this series back to LA, especially considering their superstar teammates aren’t going to be joining them.

The Antagonist

Through four games, the Phoenix Suns are a model of consistency. Devin Booker has been their engine for everything on offense, while Kevin Durant gets in where he fits in, Torrey Craig makes timely shots, and Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton work the pick-and-roll game. The same formula is coming again on Tuesday night for those wondering, since the Clippers haven’t proven they can stop it. It would have been helpful if the Clippers received some of their game-changing, two-way talents back, which would have been grounds for believing some of what transpired in Game 1 could be replicated Tuesday. But that won’t be the case, and the Clippers will need to play a near-perfect game both on the court and from the sidelines.

Clippers vs. Suns Game Notes

  • The others: The path to the Clippers advancing in this series felt straightforward. It featured Kawhi Leonard being elite enough to match the production of both Kevin Durant and Devin Booker while everyone else canceled each other out. In Game 1, we saw what that formula play out: Leonard being the best player on the floor, with guys like Russell Westbrook and Ivica Zubac being two of that specific game’s top 5 players. But it’s gone south ever since. Deandre Ayton has outplayed both of the Clippers’ centers, Torrey Craig has vastly outproduced all three of LA’s 4s, and without Kawhi Leonard in the mix, Phoenix clearly has the upper hand at the top. 

It’s hard to expect anything different at this point in the series, but I’ll still pay attention to the fringes. Can Marcus Morris and Nic Batum make shots? Will Torrey Craig cool off? Can Zubac make the pick-and-roll tough for Paul and Ayton as he has done so in the past? Those are the types of things that could swing the game 10 points in the other direction, which might be enough for the Clippers to do the unthinkable.

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