Los Angeles Clippers vs Phoenix Suns Prediction & Preview – Live NBA NCAA Basketball Streams

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The Clippers came back from a 0-2 deficit in each of their first two series in the playoffs against the Mavericks and Jazz, and if they hope to make it a third series in a row, Thursday’s Game 3 is a must-win at home.

The Suns won a competitive pair of games in Phoenix to open the series. Devin Booker dropped a 40-point triple-double as the Suns beat the Clippers 120-114 in Game 1. Booker had an off-night by his standards in Game 2, but the Suns eeked out a 104-103 wind on one wild last second alley-oop (Valley-Oop, if you will) as Deandre Ayton and Cam Payne combined for 53 points in total.

Both teams were without the All-Star in the first two games as Kawhi Leonard was out with a knee injury while Chris Paul was out due to a positive COVID-19 test. Paul is officially listed as likely to play in Game 3 while Leonard stays out. Can the Clippers rally back home with a win 3, or will Paul’s return give the Suns a commanding 3-0 lead?

CP3 Back to game 3

If the Suns win and cover as short road favorites, Ayton must continue his dominance in the post while the Suns improve their shooting beyond the arc.

Ayton’s rise to become a dominant big has been one of my favorite developments in the playoffs so far. Ayton consistently finds ways to influence play with his soft scores inside, high engine on the glass, fast feet and reaction defensively and his freakish athletics. He put up 24 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2 as he made 12 out of 15 (80%) shots, including the game winner.

Ayton has favorable matchups against the Clippers when the Clippers go big (Zubac / Cousins) or small (Morris / Batum), as his combination of size, strength and speed cannot be matched in the Clippers’ frontcourt. Even with Paul expected to play in Game 3, the Suns must continue to feed Ayton and exploit his advantage inside offensively while anchoring the defense at the other end.

While the Suns won Game 1 as they shot over 40% on threes, they fought beyond the arc in Game 2 as they only made six out of 26 threes (23.1%). If their shooting gets back on track (they have shot 37.5% on threes this season), they should win like Paul and Booker’s midfield games, and Ayton’s advantage in the position will give them too much firepower for the shorthand Clippers without Leonard.

With Paul back leading the offense, this should mean higher quality perimeter shots for almost everyone on the wings like Payne, Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson (who together only made four out of 17-threes in Game 2). While Payne struggled to shoot three in Game 2, he excelled at everything else, a man who did not have an NBA standings at this point last season, scoring a high of 29 points while handing out a Paul-esque nine assists and no revenue.

Can PG13 and Reggie Jackson lead the Clippers to another 0-2 comeback?

If the Clippers cover as home underdogs in Game 3, Paul George should be the best player on the field while getting warm beyond the arc. Kawhi Leonard (knee) is out Thursday, while Serge Ibaka (back) is out for the season.

During the regular season, the Clippers shot the highest three-point percentage in the league by more than a full percentage point as they made 41.1% of their threes. They have continued their success beyond the arc in the playoffs, as their 40.2% accuracy is in third place only after the Jazz and Trail Blazers. When Leonard stays out, they need to get open threes through ball movement and drive-and-kick opportunities. If they can get a shooting boost at home and shoot over 40% on threes, they should have a great chance of pulling the disturbance.

When Paul returns, the margin for error shrinks even more for the Clippers. This means George and Reggie Jackson will have to be the best for the Clippers to win Game 3. George must be the best player on the field on Thursday and he is more than capable of doing so. George must continue to play aggressively and use his combination of length and athleticism to get to the edge often. His shooting frequency of 29% at the rim ranks in the 77th percentile among attackers this post season. If he can get his driving ability used to get more space and shoot high-quality threes (he only made one of eight threes in Game 2), the Clippers will be a good spot offensively.

Secondary playmakers for the Clippers must also step up in Leonard’s absence. Jackson has been consistent and must continue to be the Clippers’ second-best player. Terance Mann and Luke Kennard must also score effectively and create shots for others with their playmaking ability. Spaces like Nicolas Batum and Marcus Morris Sr. need to take advantage of the open look in the perimeter that they have all season.

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