West Conference Semifinals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers – Series preview
(2) Phoenix Suns
The luxury of a sweep is sitting around and enjoying who gets to run themselves down for the next round. In this case, it’s even better the NBA is scheduling the Western Conference Finals to start less than 48 hours for a MIDDAY matinee from when the Clippers last played? The Suns should rightfully earn the respect of being favored in almost every moment here on out (fully healthy of course). They survived the defending champs Los Angeles Lakers (at the expense of Anthony Davis’ injury). They spoiled Nikola Jokić’s MVP year and swept him out of the playoffs. Chris Paul’s legacy gets a positive boost while the world is finally getting to see how good Devin Booker really is.
Now the bad news for Phoenix. Paul’s status for Game 1 remains up in the air due to health and safety protocol. It is assumed he is the only player who tested positive for COVID-19 since the NBA reported last week. There is no real indication of CP3’s turnaround time to return back to the court. Due to the fact the NBA is scheduling the series to start as quickly as possible, this gives Phoenix no leeway in buying more days for Paul to be in the lineup for Game 1. Assuming that once the mandatory quarantine period has passed, Paul should be available for the series in the later parts should the series go longer than 4 games.
What favors Phoenix is that they have proven so far teams led by star players without much of a supporting cast aren’t an issue (see LeBron without Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokić without Jamal Murray). The luck of the draw not facing teams at their best? Ok ok, I like to give credit where it’s due, and Phoenix still flexed pretty hard in those games instead of folding under pressure when the opposition made runs.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers
Most people figured at this rate we would FINALLY see the battle of LA? The Lakers vs the Clippers, Kawhi, and PG13 vs LeBron and AD. What a let down right? In all fairness, no matter how you feel about the Clippers they’ve worked themselves into the Western Conference Finals. Finding out the news mid-series that Kawhi Leonard is officially out with a knee injury is devastating news if you’re a Clippers fan. The worse part is that the news is feared to be an ACL injury and he’s out indefinitely.
Maybe another man can save the Clippers’ season? That man is Terance Mann. I spoke about him in the preview of the Semifinals series slowly emerging with his extended minutes. But let’s be real, did anyone see a Terance Mann scoring 39 points in a close-out game against the UTAH JAZZ? Probably not right? Credit is due and man, quite frankly he had one of the best jerseys in the NBA bubble last season. His jersey phrase was “I Am A Man”, followed by his surname, Mann.
Anyways, back to gloating but Mr. Mann clearly loves close-out games because he becomes better and better each time. In Game 7 against Dallas, he scored 13 points on 50-percent shooting. A whole series later he’s dropping 39 points on 71-percent shooting in Game 6?!? Since Game 1 against Dallas in the first round, Mann’s production is quickly rising as more minutes become available to him. Here is the baffling part. Before Game 6 against the Jazz, Mann had only taken 13 three-point field goals the entire playoffs and connected on four of them. All of a sudden in Game 6 he takes 10 and knocks down seven of those attempts? Overall, he’s shooting 54-percent from the field in the entire 2021 Playoffs.
Top players to watch
Devin Booker – 2021 Playoffs
- 27.9 PPG
- 6.8 RPG
- 4.8 APG
Paul George – 2021 Playoffs
- 26.1 PPG
- 9.2 RPG
- 5.3 APG
Where should the money go?
It almost feels like we have to put a disclaimer here should an injury occur in this series at some point. It is unfortunate that the Playoffs have resulted in some top All-Star players injured and of no availability.
Los Angeles’ defense will have to consistently be aware of the shooters like Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder. That means Terance Mann, Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Nicolas Batum have some work to do. Should Chris Paul be out for Game 1 this favors the Clippers as some of these Suns players reap the benefits of a playmaker like Paul setting them up.
The Clippers are also at a disadvantage when it comes to size. DeAndre Ayton sits down in the paint for the Suns and continues to show as a 22-year old former 1st pick in the 2018 Draft that he’s ready for the big moments. His last two series saw parts of Anthony Davis and directly matching up against the NBA’s MVP this year, Jokić.
However, Ty Lue found a way to beat the league’s best big man on the defensive end, Rudy Gobert. Can the small ball continue to be successful for the Clippers? At times Paul George and Nicolas Batum listed at 6’8 each would be the tallest players on the floor for the Clippers. Can they alienate Ayton away from the floor and force Monty Williams to go small as well? We are either in for a battle of the role players and Booker against George, Mann, and their role players.
This is where I worry for the Clippers as the Suns have the next-man-up mentality too. Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Torrey Craig, and Dario Saric all make up the bench players that Monty Williams has in his bench rotation. It’s almost daring for the Clippers to go small because the Suns have the depth to combat any type of lineup they may face. My other concern for the Clippers is the fatigue (but we could argue Phonix being rusty especially without Paul early in the series). I haven’t even touched on Devin Booker but quite frankly unless PG13 gives us a series to remember the advantage works in Booker’s favor.
With that being said, the Phoenix Suns are going to the 2021 NBA Finals in 6 Games!
Schedule and Results
3:30 PM ET
Clippers - 114
9:00 PM ET
Clippers - 103
Game 3: PHX leads series 2-1
9:00 PM ET
Suns - 92 Clippers - 106
9:00 PM ET
Suns - 84
9:00 PM ET
Clippers - 116
9:00 PM ET
Suns - 130