After securing a solid Game 5 win in Phoenix, the depleted but determined Clippers return home with a chance to even the series with the Suns Wednesday night. Read on for our full Western Conference Finals Game 6 preview between the Clippers and Suns.
Western Conference Finals Game 6 Information
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 6 p.m. PT
How to Watch: ESPN
How to Listen: KEIB AM 1150, 1330 AM Tu Liga
Projected Starting Lineups:
LA Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Terance Mann – Marcus Morris Sr.
Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul – Devin Booker – Mikal Bridges – Jae Crowder – Deandre Ayton
LA Clippers: Serge Ibaka – OUT (Back Surgery), Kawhi Leonard – OUT (Right Knee Sprain), Ivica Zubac – QUESTIONABLE (Right Knee MCL Sprain)
Phoenix Suns: No injuries reported.
The Big Picture
Will the Clippers win at home and force a Game 7 in Phoenix on Friday? Or will the Suns close out the series and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly three decades?
A heathy Phoenix Suns squad will be out for revenge on Wednesday, after failing to clinch their first Finals berth in decades Monday night. The chippy, physical, and flop-proficient Suns hold a 3-2 advantage in the Western Conference Series and are led by veteran Chris Paul and skilled shooting guard Devin Booker. Not much to say about the talented Phoenix squad that has not already been said. They are fast, young, and hungry.
Sadly, still no Kawhi
Game 6 will mark Kawhi Leonard’s eighth-straight missed playoff game. The two-time NBA Finals MVP had been playing spectacularly before suffering a right knee sprain during Game 4 of LA’s second round series against the number one seeded Utah Jazz. (Damn you, Joe Ingles!) The Klaw had been averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals across 11 games.
Leonard has been a major loss for the Clippers on both ends of the floor, but LA’s deep and resilient roster has proven, repeatedly at this point, that they are capable of winning without him. How far the Clippers depth and drive will take them has yet to be seen, but boy, what a fun ride so far.
Hit Them Early – Set a Tone
A key for the Clippers in Game 6 is to hit the Suns early. In Game 5 the Clippers started the game strong by aggressively driving the lane and not settling for jump shots. Once they had secured the early lead, the rest of the game was relatively smooth sailing. The Suns made their runs of course, but LA always responded in turn.
The Clippers defense flustered the Suns in Game 5, with much credit due to LA’s number one irritant, Patrick Beverley. Phoenix is not known for being loosey-goosey with the basketball, but turned the ball over 14 times on Monday, resulting in 23 points for Los Angeles. The Clippers communication on the floor has been great, rotations have been quick, and close outs on shooters like Cam Payne, Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges have been solid. They’ve limited paint touches and successfully slowed the Sun’s transition offense. Most importantly, they have picked up Paul and Booker early, forcing them to start their offense at mid-court and triggered errors that the Clippers have been able to exploit.
PITP and Fast Break Points
The Clippers topped the Suns in Game 5 with regard to both points in the paint (58 to 32) and fast break points (19 to 8). The Clippers’ success in these areas had a lot to do with players’ aggression in getting to the rim, fight on the boards, and hustle on defense. If the Clippers can out-perform the Suns in these areas again Wednesday, victory is likely.
Paul George was unreal in Game 5, logging one of the best games of his career. Playoff P dropped 41 points on 75% shooting, snatched 13 rebounds dished 6 assists. However, equally, if not more important were the contributions of the Clippers’ role players. Marcus Morris had 22 points and carried LA offensively in the first half. Reggie Jackson continued to excel, contributing 23 points including some big buckets down the stretch. DeMarcus Cousins was a wonderful bonus, giving the Clippers 15 points in 11 minutes and helping to neutralize the Sun’s Deandre Ayton in the absence of Ivica Zubac, who was sidelined with an MCL injury. These same players need to give LA quality minutes for the team to pull off a Game 6 win and prolong their chances to advance to the Championship series.
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