Clippers vs. Suns Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
For two glorious games this series, we got the Kawhi Leonard vs Kevin Durant showdown we’ve been waiting for, and the series delivered. The Clippers won on the road in Game 1 and we got two electric battles with plenty of big time shot making.
Then came the bad news: Leonard had a sprained knee, and we haven’t seen him since.
The Suns went to Los Angeles and took both road games, and now the Suns are up 3-1 looking to close the Clippers out. Leonard has already been ruled out, along with Paul George, and it certainly seems the Clippers are on the brink.
The Suns are huge favorites to close out Game 5, and Phoenix remains a big favorite in the West. But are the Suns as dominant as the respect oddsmakers are giving them? Here’s my betting preview for Clippers vs Suns Game 5, including a prediction.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are simply running out of bodies and options.
Paul George and Leonard are out. We may not see them again this season and certainly won’t in Game 5.
Nic Batum has been nothing short of horrendous this series. He was mostly exiled in Game 4 but has seen his minutes largely replaced by Marcus Morris, who has been almost as bad. Robert Covington can’t seem to buy more than a couple minutes of Ty Lue’s trust here or there.
One guy who has showed up this series is the inimitable Russell Westbrook. He’s averaging 26.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.3 assists a game, and that includes that Game 1 shooting clunker. He’s doing everything for L.A. the last two games with Leonard out, taking 26 shots a game and averaging 33.5 points, seven rebounds, eight assists with three stocks and five turnovers per game. Westbrook will go hard every second he’s out there, and no one would fault you for playing a Westbrook over with the Clippers in desperate need of a win to stay alive in the series.
If the Clippers are to have any hope of hanging around in this game or beyond, it will have to be more than just Westbrook. That probably means some combination of Norman Powell, Eric Gordon, and Terance Mann.
The Suns are quietly humming along after going down 0-1 to start the series.
They hit a barrage of mid-range shots to pull away in Game 2, an outrageous 21-of-29 on 2s outside the paint (72%), and that’s basically been the story of the series. The Clippers have had no defensive answers for Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul pull-ups, with Ivica Zubac especially in jail defensively.
Phoenix has also lived at the line in this series. They’re averaging 30 free throws a game, a massive number, especially for a team with such good jump shooters. The one thing the Suns don’t do? Shoot 3s. They’re attempting only 23 per game and making under nine per outing, a shocking number in 2023.
The Suns are proving to be incredible at what they d0 best — shoot a ton of mid-range 2s — but their defining offensive characteristic is such an inefficient shot compared to the rest of the league that the margin of efficiency still just isn’t that great. Three is still greater than two, and that means the Suns have to make middies at an outlandish rate to maintain any math advantage. So far this series, they’re doing that.
They’re not likely to win much with defense. It’s telling that Westbrook can put up the numbers he has with relative efficiency, and Leonard was carving them up before (and after!) getting hurt. Deandre Ayton has been poor defensively and the Suns D since the Durant trade fouls a lot, doesn’t turn opponents over, and struggles on the glass.
The Suns are going to have to beat opponents with middies. Lucky for them, they’ve got three of the best on the planet at doing just that.
As much as it feels like the Suns have dominated this series, the Clippers have been competitive deep into every game.
L.A. was down four with five and half minutes left in Game 4 before Paul helped the Suns pull away. The Clippers were down three with 90 seconds left in Game 3. They were down six with three minutes left in Game 2, and of course they won Game 1.
Phoenix had poor clutch numbers in the regular season, though most of that without Durant. Still, play out those three games at the points of mention 100 times, and the most likely outcome is the Clippers getting at least one of them. Suddenly this series is 2-2 and we’re thinking a lot differently about a Suns team that isn’t putting away a Clippers squad missing their two franchise players.
As brilliant as Booker has been this series, with Durant and Paul great at times too, the Suns have still allowed the Clippers leftovers to hang around. No defense and a flurry of mid-range jumpers without 3s just isn’t a formula to put opponents away. It’s worked late in three straight games, but that doesn’t mean it will work the next time.
The evidence of the series tells us that the Clippers will play hard, that the Suns don’t have a gear to put them away, and that this should be a winnable game late for both sides.
A +610 moneyline implies a 14% chance of a Clippers win. Nothing we’ve seen in this series makes that the right number. I think the Clippers are live to win this game, and I think they’re still live in this series too, with +6500 at least twice as long as it ought to be.
The most likely outcome is the Suns making just enough late jumpers again to put this away, but Phoenix simply isn’t as good as the price it’s being afforded right now.