|Moneyline||-115 / -107|
|Time||Thursday, 9 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday and via DraftKings|
The Phoenix Suns took care of business at home and now lead the Western Conference Finals two games to zero after a thrilling last-second dunk by Deandre Ayton to cap a Game 2 victory.
Now these teams head to Los Angeles with Chris Paul looming in the wings as he waits to return from the league’s health and safety protocols. After nearly stealing a game on the road, can the Clippers make this a series at home, or will the Suns take a commanding 3-0 lead?
Let’s break it down.
Suns Welcome Back CP3 To Rotation
The Suns are patiently waiting for Chris Paul to be cleared from the league’s health and safety protocols. There’s some optimism that he will be cleared for Game 3 as reported by Dave McMenamin, which would be an even bigger boost for this Suns team. As of Wednesday afternoon, Chris Paul intends to play on Thursday.
So far this series, these two teams have been very evenly matched, with both coaches looking to exploit any weaknesses their opponent may have. Coach Monty Williams has leaned on his rising star Deandre Ayton who is dominating on the interior. He’s averaging 22 points and 11.5 rebounds on 75.9% shooting through two games. Those are fantastic numbers, and the Clippers do not have a counter for him.
We’ve seen Ayton shred the Clippers down low, and it forces them to try some combination of DeMarcus Cousins or Ivica Zubac in a feeble attempt to defend the paint. Zubac is a bit better than Cousins though, so I’d expect to see him moving forward. When Cousins has been on the floor, the Clippers have a Net Rating of -38.2 while giving up 138.2 points per 100 possessions, per NBA Advanced Stats. If the Suns can get Zubac in foul trouble, Ayton will have an even easier time down low.
The return of Chris Paul is enormous. Even if he’s on a minutes limit, we’ve see Cameron Payne excel in his stead. This series the Suns are 12.3 points better with Payne on the floor, and that’s been against the Clippers’ starting unit, not the secondary rotations he will likely take on in Game 3.
Payne has been good, but he’s not the Point God. Chris Paul will exploit those matchups with Ayton in the post; he will bury the Clippers from midrange if they sag on defense; he will take some of the offensive pressure off Devin Booker. The Suns were great through two games, and they’re about to be better.
Clippers Must Excel From Deep To Win
There has not been an update regarding Kawhi Leonard‘s ACL injury, but it’d be a shock to see him play in Game 3. The Clippers will need to make due with an offense lead by Paul George.
The key to the Clippers’ success so far has been their edge from 3-point range. Over the last two games, they’re shooting 40.5% from 3-point range and averaging 16.5 makes on 40.5 attempts per game. That’s a huge edge compared to Phoenix who is shooting 32.8% from 3-point range while converting 9.5 on 29 attempts per game, per NBA Advanced Stats.
This math advantage is significant, as the Clippers are scoring about 21 more points per game from deep than the Suns, and this has allowed Los Angeles to keep these games close. Is this something they can continue to replicate?
Maybe. This series the Clippers have a 55.7% eFG% versus an expected 54.6% eFG%, and much of it is due to their success from 3-point range. They’ve shot incredibly well from deep throughout the entire playoffs, and the Suns have struggled to contain them so far. However, with the way 3-point variance can strike at any time, one bad shooting day and a game could get out of hand in a hurry. Considering the Suns limited their opponents to the fifth worst 3-point percentage this season (36.1%), a bad shooting night is not out of the question.
This is a must-win game for the Clippers, but I’m not convinced they have another gear. The home court may be welcomed, but the Clippers have already played great basketball, yet they are down 2-0, and Chris Paul has not stepped on the Court.
Since 2005, it has been profitable to bet on road favorites in the NBA Playoffs. Road Favorites are 147-124-7 ATS returning a 6% ROI. This has been even more profitable since 2016 (last year’s playoffs did not have home or road splits), and road favorites are 51-25-2 ATS returning an ROI of 30.3%, per Betlabs.
The Suns have moved to short 1-point favorites following the news that Chris Paul expects to suit up. I’ll take the Suns to stay hot, exploit the Clippers’ weaknesses, and make this a formidable 3-0 series lead.
Pick: Suns -1