Clippers vs. Suns Game 2: Back Phoenix to Rebound

Action Network contributor Andrew O'Connor-Watts of Action Network previews Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs between the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, April 18.

Clippers vs. Suns Odds

Clippers Odds +8
Suns Odds -8
Over/Under 225.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Game 1 of the Clippers vs. Suns series is in contention for the most exciting of the playoffs — personally I have to give Warriors vs. Kings the top spot.

Kawhi Leonard willed the Clippers to a 115-110 road win with 38 points, five rebounds and five assists on 13-for-24 shooting. But it wasn’t just Leonard who made meaningful contributions. Clippers head coach Ty Lue calls the playoffs his “happy place,” and it’s no mystery why. He was thoroughly in his element and out-coached Monty Williams from the opening tip, starting with some unexpected defensive matchups that kept Phoenix on its toes.

The Suns could have their work cut out for them if they can’t find a way to counter the grab bag of tricks and schemes the Clippers will continue throw their way. Heading to L.A. with a 0-2 deficit would drastically change the complexion of the series for the Suns, and they’ll need to find a way to even up the series.

Let’s breakdown the matchup odds and I’ll give out a prediction for Clippers vs. Suns Game 2.

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Los Angeles Clippers

It isn’t the first time Lue has messed with matchups ahead of a big game. He’s one of the best in the NBA when it comes to pre-game strategy and in-game adjustments. Instead of putting Ivica Zubac on DeAndre Ayton, Lue opted to put Leonard on Ayton and the Bosnian big man on Torrey Craig — the Suns’ least threatening offensive weapon.

On Craig, Zubac was mostly sagging off in the corner, which allowed the big man to help out in the paint. More importantly, the matchup allowed Leonard to easily switch off of Ayton in the screening action, taking away a mismatch when Devin Booker, Chris Paul or Kevin Durant would inevitably attempt a switch onto the slow-footed Zubac.

Another notable advantage for L.A. was its depth compared to Phoenix. The Clippers played a nine-man rotation with Bones Hyland’s 13 minutes being the least amount of playing time for any Clipper who logged minutes.

While the Suns played with a longer 11-man rotation, only Landry Shamet (23 minutes) played more than eight minutes off the bench. The Clippers reserves outscored the Suns bench 34-10.

A surprising wrinkle to the game was Westbrook’s confusing play. He shot a horrific 3-for-19 from the field, but he had only a -6 plus-minus thanks to his playmaking and defense.

Westbrook dished out eight dimes on just two turnovers while grabbing 11 boards, two steals and three blocks — a truly legendary defensive effort for the usually lackluster defender.

An inefficient nine points from Westbrook would normally be a death sentence, but the fact that he shot horrendously and the Clippers still managed a win is an encouraging sign for L.A.

Phoenix Suns

On the Suns side, an upset in Game 1 is obviously a huge disappointment, but not as surprising as it might seem at first glance.

The Suns played just eight games with Durant before the playoffs, and as good as he is from a plug-and-play standpoint on the offensive end, the lack of continuity was evident up against Lue’s trickery.

The Suns were completely caught off guard in the first quarter and their communication was out of sync as might be expected. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Suns’ starting lineup of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Durant, Craig and Ayton had a differential of +49 in the regular season, but played just 27 possessions together.

That lack of familiarity showed as Durant went scoreless in the first on 0-for-5 shooting from the field. But the Suns made adjustments of their own and won the second and third quarters by a combined score of 63-51, with Durant scoring 17 of his 27 points in the second.

The Suns overcame the matchup trickiness by moving Craig into the screening action and forcing switches with Zubac on Durant.

They also embraced the lack of attention given to Craig. When Clippers defenders would switch off Craig in pick and rolls, Craig was left wide open and he was able to score 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting and 2-for-4 from deep.

Clippers-Suns Pick

Game 2 should provide Monty Williams and the Suns with time to make adjustments as they did throughout Game 1. The problem was their inability to overcome that first quarter when the Clippers outscored them 30-18.

I expect the Suns to make the necessary adjustments and come out stronger in Game 2.

I like them to cover the 7.5, but I wouldn’t go past -8 as this Clippers team represents some real matchup issues with their length and ability to switch on defense.

Pick: Suns -7.5 (-110) | Play to -8