Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was one for the ages. Missed last-second free throws, buzzer-beating heroics, and 48 minutes that we will surely not forget for a while. The Clippers find themselves down 0-2 in the series as we move to Los Angeles for games 3 and 4. Being down 0-2 for the third straight time through the 2021 playoffs, do they have enough left in the tank for another comeback? Let’s find out!
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Best Odds for Phoenix Suns at LA Clippers - 6/24/2021
Phoenix at LA Clippers – Pick: Phoenix ML
The Clippers are not telling us too much about the nature of Kawhi Leonard’s injury but many insiders are reporting it to be an ACL sprain, which would mean that he will be forced to the sidelines for the rest of the postseason.
What we know for sure that Kawhi is out for Thursday’s game three and his production will surely be missed. Leonard is averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. He leads the Clippers in both scoring and steals per game (2.1).
On the other end, Chris Paul is reported to be probable for the game. Paul is on the Covid-list and already tested negative on Tuesday and Wednesday. Players need two consecutive negative tests to be eligible to return, so theoretically Paul should be ready for game 3. We expect him to play 20-25 minutes coming off the Covid-list.
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A Superstar is Born
Phoenix center DeAndre Ayton is just 22 years old and he was mostly overlooked by experts coming into the season. Most analysts were criticizing his lack of defense and toughness. Ayton made huge improvements on both ends of the floor and he has been the top reason while the small-ball lineup of the Clippers is suffering so far in the series.
Ayton is coming off another monster game where he had 24 points and 14 rebounds on 80% shooting. He is also great at drawing defenders while creating easy opportunities for his teammates close to the basket.
The Suns are simply dominating the Clippers in the paint while he is on the floor. In the first two games, they have been shooting 90% and 75% from within 4-feet of the rim, a feat that out of the remaining teams only Milwaukee can replicate.
Running Out of Bodies
Besides missing Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have multiple issues when it comes to their lineup. After playing 21 minutes in game one, starting PF Marcus Morris only played 25 minutes in game two. Morris was 3/11 from the field in both games and he is shooting 1/7 from downtown through two games. We know that he is nursing a knee injury, but simply put the Clippers cannot allow him to sit games out at this point in the season.
After averaging over 35 minutes in the Jazz series and playing 37 minutes against the Suns in the first game, Nicolas Batum only played 16 minutes in the second match as the team was steering away from the small ball lineup that brought them this far in the playoffs.
We believe that the best lineup they can put on the floor includes Batum and unless we see major changes to the rotation the Suns will continue to take advantage of Ivica Zubac.
No Payne, No Gain
With CP3 sidelined across two games, we’ve seen Cameron Payne stepping it up big time 26-year-old backup finished the second game with 29 points on 12/24 shooting while also dishing out 9 assists. Performances like this from role players are why the Suns are having this much success early on.
Phoenix won the game in the last second and we could argue that they got lucky when it mattered, but they did still come away with a W in a game where they didn’t have Chris Paul and Devon Booker was struggling mightily making just 5 goals out of 16 attempts (31.3%). It is also important to note that Phoenix’s two starting forwards, Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder ended the game with a combined 7 points.
Rolling With the Suns
It almost seems like it doesn’t matter if Kawhi Leonard will be available for the rest of the series or not. The Suns are finding ways of making this work. They are barely turning the ball over (just a 7.5% TO-ratio in the first game and an 8.8% in the second game) and the Booker – Ayton connection has been helping them through periods when the jump shots weren’t falling for them.
We are expecting the Suns to improve to 11-2 in the playoffs including 5-1 on the road. We've seen that it doesn't matter if Phoenix is outrebounded, the strong overall efficiency on the offensive end and the stellar three-point defense (36.1% FG allowed from downtown through the entire season, 5th-best in the league) combined with unparalleled depth is enough for them to win this series. Our pick for game 3 is Phoenix on the money line! Good luck!