Suns @ Clippers Game 3: Back Suns in return of Paul
With Chris Paul back after missing the first two games, Zach Rainey tells you how to approach Game 3 with the series now in Los Angeles...
After missing the first two games, Chris Paul returns to the Phoenix Suns with the team up a commanding 2-0 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
This isn’t new territory for the Clippers, as they had to overcome a 2-0 series deficit in both of their previous playoff series to this point and are just one-point underdogs in Game 3.
But I have the feeling this Phoenix Suns team is a different monster. They’re by far the most complete team the Clippers have had to face so far. You could make the argument it was Utah, and if Donovan Mitchell was healthy, I’d be more inclined to have that discussion. But with Mitchell on a bad ankle for the second half of that series, the Clippers were able to capitalize.
People will say the Clippers have done a good job at keeping the games close in the absence of their superstar; Kawhi Leonard.
But when you look at the games a little more closely, you’ll see that might not, in fact, be the case.
In Game 1, the Suns were up 10 with a little over a minute to go. But then Rajon Rondo hit a pair of threes on consecutive trips down the floor to cut it to four. Even in Game 2, when Playoff P wanted to be nice and serve the game up to Phoenix on a silver platter by missing both free throws.
That also might’ve been Devin Booker’s worst game of the playoffs. Shooting 33 percent from the field in an effort to try and get a rhythm going is forgivable, but seven turnovers along the way as the team’s primary ball-handler and facilitator isn’t. Phoenix shouldn’t have even been in that game with seven turnovers.
A lot of those turnovers came when it felt the Phoenix offense was stalling. They didn’t get a bucket in a few trips, Booker would get doubled and then make a bad pass. With Paul back, he’ll be able to sense those moments better and have a better feel what to do and where the ball needs to go in that situation.
There’s something different about this Phoenix team. I know with gambling, you want every little statistic that you think might be the edge, but rarely is that the case. Instead, I want you to go back and look at the postgame footage from Game 2.
Following Ayton’s game-winning dunk and Cameron Payne going off for 29 points, they were on video chat with Chris Paul in the locker room afterwards. Ayton and Payne looked like the younger cousins eager to tell their cool older cousin what they had done. They were borderline giddy telling him. With Uncle Chris back in the lineup, I think Suns take Game 3 tonight.
What’s the old saying? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? That’s how I’m approaching our prop today. I’ll gladly take Deandre Ayton over 15.5 points. IF your book offers Ayton to record a double-double, I would be all over that as well. I think this ability has always been there for Ayton, but he’s started to buy into that Monty Williams and Chris Paul have told him to, and as a result, his confidence is through the roof right now. I expect Paul to keep Ayton heavily involved tonight.
My Picks: Suns -1, Ayton o15.5 points.