As is playoff tradition, the 213 Hoops staff gives their quick thoughts and predictions for the Clippers’ playoff series in a roundtable, this time against the Phoenix Suns.

Adam Auslund: Clippers in 6

I’m keeping it positive to counter “Big Shot Bob Flom” and his Eeyore energy. I’m going full Tigger instead, which might trigger some who have watched 82 games of this team being consistently inconsistent and overall underachieving with ending up in the 5 spot.  

The Suns though might be the only team with championship hopes that has EVEN MORE questions than answers than the Clippers. Yes, they are 8-0 with KD and the advanced numbers look good with their stars, but they haven’t been tested yet. Their best win came in a close game against the Timberwolves. 

While KD may heal the mental scars from being up 2-0 in the Finals (along with their meltdown in game 7 last year) this Suns group hasn’t exactly thrived when adversity hits. Nor has CP3 throughout his career. 

Meanwhile, the Clippers have shown the ability to play their best when people count them out and they get the underdog role. They most certainly are in this series and that makes me dangerously optimistic.

They’ll need to be better than the Suns from three, get an efficient 20 from Norm, AND Mann has to have a breakout series offensively (15 ppg).

Charles Mockler: Suns in 7

Given how much hope the Clips came into the season with, predicting them to lose in the 1st round as a 5 seed stings, but such is life as a Clippers fan. The absence of Paul George is what tips this series in favor of the Suns: yes Kawhi Leonard is playing at an other-worldly level and is one of the few players who can go heads up with Kevin Durant, but the Suns have more top-end talent than the Clippers, who never could string together 4 straight quarters of “this team could be the champs” level basketball this season. If PG returns for the Clippers home games this prediction could be flipped, but to buy the Clips time we’ll need Russ to keep being efficient, Terance to cause chaos on the Suns guard rotations and in the paint, Batum to defend like hell (and even out from 3), Zu to average a double-double, and…okay I only have a paragraph but you get it: a lot has to go right without PG to win this series.

Ralston Dacanay: Suns in 6

Just know that this prediction comes from a place of pain. Realistically, it’s hard to pick the Clippers after how disappointing their regular season was. And with Paul George’s availability up in the air, it’s an additional tall hurdle that would be tough for any team to overcome. Seeing how the Clippers always seem to make things pretty dramatic in the playoffs though, my gut leads me to believe that there is a world where Kawhi Leonard goes superhero mode, Russell Westbrook puts up vintage numbers, Bones Hyland breaks out, and Ty Lue‘s adjustments are top-notch. As such, I don’t think you can just write LAC off, but the talent of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Chris Paul might be just too much.

Niels Pineda: Suns in 6

Whenever I look at this Clippers’ roster on paper, I find ways to convince myself that they are a great matchup for just about any team… but it is very difficult to believe that after watching this team actually play for a full season.  They have struggled against elite talent all season long, and the Suns significantly out-talent the Clippers from a top-heavy perspective.  If you’re extremely high on one of LAC’s role players, the best argument you can make is that the Sunshave only 3 of the 5 best players in this matchup (assuming of course Paul George is out). 

Trying to be a bit more optimistic, I think there are a few positives to look at that give me some amount of hope.  For starters, Kawhi has been playing incredible basketball, and history indicates that this level of play will continue if not improve.  On top of that, the team has a significant amount of depth, including several players who I legitimately think can win you a playoff game (though not a series).  Overall, even without Paul George, I think the Clippers have an equal if not greater amount of overall talent, but the main issue is that in the playoffs, you’d rather that talent be spread out across 3-4 players rather than 7-8.  I’m excited for this series, but right now I lean towards Suns in 6.

Lucas Hann: Suns in 6

I’ve gone on the record about thinking that the Clippers match up fairly well this Suns team, and I still think that that’s true.  But without Paul George, I think there’s just such a talent gulf that we simply rarely see teams overcome over the course of a 7-game series.  Phoenix’s core has even less experience together than the Clippers’, and I think Ty Lue will find ways to keep the Suns on their toes.  Their lack of depth could also leave them exposed at times as they stagger lineups, especially if the Clippers (looking at Russ and Norm here) can get any of the key 4 Suns into foul trouble.  Still, even as Phoenix has to figure it out on the fly, I think their talent advantage overwhelms the Clippers in this series unless Paul George can make an early return and immediate impact, which I just don’t feel comfortable banking on.

Robert Flom: Suns in 6

I don’t think the Suns are unbeatable, even against this mess of a Clippers team. If Paul George were healthy, I’d still lean Suns but would give the Clippers a real chance of winning the series. Without PG, the Clippers simply have too many one-way players – Ty Lue will probably lean offense-first to start with, and the Suns should be able to feast on the likes of Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland, and Norm Powell. But if he tries to add more defense, he’ll sacrifice playmaking and scoring, enabling the Suns to play some of their own defense-first guys. Paul George would add 40 minutes of premier shotmaking, shooting, and defense. Without him for at least part of the series, and without him at 100% for all of it (even if he plays I don’t see how he’d be at full throttle), it’s just tough to see the Clippers finding enough combinations of players that give them the offense and defense to match the Suns’ firepower.

Randi Geffner: Suns in 7

It breaks my heart to say this… but Suns in 7. And if that is the case (or if the series goes 6 games), Clipper Nation can hold our heads high.  As a staunch anti-CP3 advocate, I believe that parts of this series could be a mess for the Suns as I don’t think he has the impact that he thinks he has.  We can’t pretend that Booker and Durant are not formidable opponents, but their sample size together is very small and we have had some good success against several versions of this team in the past.  Add to that the championship history of Ty Lue, Kawhi and Powell, and you can’t sleep on the Clippers in this series or really any matchup.  I’m hanging on to my prediction that we see Paul George in game 3 or 4, and not just on the sideline.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think it was an accident that he was very visible courtside and looking good at the last regular season game.  I think it was sending a message, and if that is the case, all bets are off.

Cole Huff: Suns in 6

I don’t believe it to be a foregone conclusion that the Suns win this series. However, A LOT would have to go right for the Clippers to pull this off without the services of Paul George. I’m talking about peak Playoff Kawhi, Ty Lue in his postseason bag, Russell Westbrook turning back the clocks, and many of the role players being the best versions of themselves. Obviously, if PG plays at all in this round, his presence could change things quite a bit. But until we get word of his return, the Clips might just run out of juice having to deal with the top-end talent of the Devin Booker and Kevin Durant-led Suns. But again, not impossible.

Shapan Debnath: Suns in 6

Yeah, it’s nice that the Suns don’t have that trademark fast twitch player that seems to always destroy the Clippers lack of foot speed on defense. The Suns are very green (in terms of chemistry), likely figuring out kinks as they go, and that does make them vulnerable. They do have injury prone players, but we are catching them early, not late. And while they might not be quick, they are methodical, and their play actions will utilize a lot of shot making strengths across their roster, whether it be their excellent midrange shot makers, Deandre Ayton’s ability to effectively roll and score off defenders cheating off of him, or the impeccable spacing held by the fact that you just can’t leave any of their star perimeter players open. The Clippers will miss Paul George’s defense on that end, but without him the offense will need to depend on too many streaky players outside of Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance. Kawhi is so good that he can get you a game, and a combination of hot streaks at once can get you another, but that lack of top end talent will cost the Clippers, even if George does make his return in the middle of this series.

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