Clippers vs. Suns Game 2 Odds
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday and via PointsBet.|
After sweeping the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Phoenix Suns were dealt a devastating blow when Chris Paul entered the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocol before the start of the Western Conference Finals.
Typically this would be catastrophic news for the Suns, however the Clippers weren’t completely healthy either as news broke the same day that Kawhi Leonard had suffered a knee injury.
In the battle between two teams missing key stars, the Suns reigned supreme in a 120-114 victory behind Devin Booker’s 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. It marked the Suns’ eighth consecutive victory since falling behind 2-1 in their first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
While things have been easy for the Suns, the Clippers have found themselves in dogfights the entire postseason, once again dropping Game 1 and finding themselves in danger of going down 0-2 for the third consecutive playoff series.
It appears the result of Game 1 has made quite the impression on the market with oddsmakers installing the hometown Suns as 5.5-point favorites in Game 2 — 1.5 points higher than the closing line in the opening game of this series.
Will recent history repeat itself with the Clippers once again facing a two-game deficit as they head home, or can they steal home court for and send this series back to LA tied at one game a piece?
Can the Clippers Adjust to the Size Disadvantage?
Paul George has done more than enough to rebuke the criticism of his postseason play in recent years. Although many assumed the Clippers’ postseason run would come to an end without Leonard in the lineup, George is proving that he is more than capable of leading a championship contender as a team’s best player.
He scored 34 points in Game 1, shot 7-of-15 from behind the arc and dished out five assists. Over the past five games, George is averaging 32.2 points, 5.2 assists and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 44.9% from behind the arc.
But the Clippers need other players to score consistently in order to counter a Suns team that can light up the scoreboard. The Clippers got 24 points from Reggie Jackson in Game 1, but the only other player who scored in double digits was Demarcus Cousins who had 11 points in 13 minutes off the bench.
Nicholas Batum and Terance Mann scored five and nine points respectively while Marcus Morris continues to be a slow starter throughout this postseason. Morris struggled at the start of the two previous series and this one was no different as he scored just six points, shot 3-of-11 from the field and 0-of-5 from behind the arc.
Without Leonard in the lineup, Morris will have to step up on both sides of the ball, however he played just 21 minutes in Game 1 due to knee trouble. Fortunately for the Clippers, he isn’t listed on the injury report for Game 2 so that’s encouraging as they’re unlikely to recover from both injuries to both Leonard and Morris.
Without Leonard, this matchup is an uphill battle for the Clips and unlike their series against the Jazz, there isn’t an exploitable matchup to attack on both sides of the ball. Unlike Gobert, Deandre Ayton can defend in space and score against a switch, which means that the Clippers will have to find ways to score more and defend consistently without the advantages they had in the last series.
Offensively the Clippers shouldn’t have a hard time scoring — they put up an Offensive Rating of 124 in Game 1 — however, they are facing an uphill battle defensively.
The biggest issue is that the Clippers simply don’t have the personnel of big men to properly deal with Ayton. After shortening the rotation against the Jazz, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue opened up his rotation in Game 1 playing Cousins off the bench while also staring Ivica Zubac in place of Morris in the second half.
This is a series in which the Clippers truly miss Serge Ibaka who would have allowed the Clippers to switch everything without losing size inside. Cousins can’t be on the court at the same time as Booker or Ayton as they will exploit his lack of mobility, but he does have an advantage against Dario Saric during the second unit.
The Clippers will likely have to play small, but they’re giving up a lot inside due to Ayton’s size. The Clippers allowed the Suns to shoot a whopping 90% at the rim in Game 1 — a percentage which falls in the 99th percentile of all NBA games this season.
If the Clippers can’t figure things out defensively, it won’t matter how much Paul or the role players score because they’ll be in trouble against this lethal Suns offense.
The Suns Have the Edge in Talent
After years of playing on bad to mediocre rosters, Booker is finally playing on a team worthy of his talents and he’s making the most of the opportunity. There were once questions about Booker’s ability to lead a winning team and he’s silenced those critics during this entire postseason run.
Without Paul on the floor, Booker stepped his game up to an even higher level with his first career triple-double, scoring 40 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing 11 assists. Booker scored or assisted on 43 of the Suns’ final 50 points.
Booker scored efficiently, shooting 15-of-29 from the field and 3-of-7 from deep. Everything he did came within the confines of the offense — he never forced his shot and exhibiting terrific playmaking ability in the absence of Paul.
Booker’s ability to shoot efficiently from midrange was the key factor in Game 1 as he scored 12 points in the final 3:09 of the third quarter to help the Suns seize control after they lost the lead. This could continue to be a factor going froward as the Suns are the No. 1 ranked mid-range shooting team in the league at 49.1% while the Clippers are 25th in defensive midrange shooting frequency (33.1%) and 18th in midrange shooting accuracy (42.8%).
With Booker in the 97th percentile in mid-range shooting percentage (50%), the Clippers will have their hands full defending him, particularly without Leonard. We’re unlikely to see George take this assignment given the scoring load he has to take on.
This is an area where the Suns have a huge advantage and when Paul comes back, this will be even more pronounced as he is in the 93rd percentile in mid-range shooting accuracy (53%).
It’s not just Booker’s dominance that was instrumental in the Suns taking a 1-0 series lead, the rest of the team is equally as tough to deal with. Ayton in particular has a huge matchup advantage against these Clippers as he’s capable of exploiting their small-ball lineup that likes to switch every screen-and-roll.
Ayton can beat a smaller player every time and that’s exactly what he did in Game 1, scoring 20 points (14 in the first half) and grabbing nine rebounds. Ayton has has the foot speed to deal with the Clippers’ perimeter players without getting exploited, which will go a long way toward slowing down an offense that led the NBA in 3-point percentage (41.8%) this season.
Cameron Payne also stepped up without Paul, scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 (50%) shooting and dishing nine assists. While Paul’s veteran leadership and feel for the game was missed, Payne still maintained control of this offense, scoring timely baskets and limiting his turnovers.
Moving Payne to the starting lineup meant that we saw E’Twaun Moore get minutes off the bench and they weren’t pretty. In 10 minutes of play Moore was a -6, scored zero points and was hunted mismatches. Perhaps the adjustment for Monty Williams is to play Jevon Carter, but it remains to be seen.
Overall, the Suns have plenty to be happy about. They dominated points in the paint (54-34), fast break points (16-4) and won a game where they were outscored from behind the arc (20-13). If Game 1 is any indication, it appears the Suns are on the path to making their first NBA Finals since 1993.
If it’s not broke, why would you fix it? That’s how I feel about the Clippers in this spot. They’ve faced an 0-2 deficit in each of their two postseason series and with a loss in Game 2, it will be their third consecutive series.
I’m willing to bet on that as the Clippers have struggled defensively without Leonard, giving up Offensive Ratings of 119.3 and 134.9 in the final two games against the Jazz and 130.5 in Game 1 against the Suns.
The Clippers are simply winning with offense but unlike the Jazz, the Suns don’t have an exploitable hole for the Clippers to seize on. The Suns haven’t skipped a beat without Paul in Game 1 and I’m expecting more of the same here with them figuring out the advantage Ayton has inside.
I like the Suns to win and cover the 5.5 points, but I also see this is as a high scoring game. Game 2 finished with just 92 possessions, but with both offenses being so efficient, oddsmakers pushed this total up from 219.5 to 224 for a reason. Expect points in a Suns win.
Pick: Phoenix Suns -5.5 | Over 224