The Phoenix Suns didn’t squander their home-court advantage and seized an early 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Clippers thanks to a 40-point triple-double from Devin Booker. The injury-riddled Clippers are stumbling into Game 2, but intend to steal a road win against the Suns to even the series at 1-1.
The Suns want a victory in Game 2 to pad their lead before the series relocates to LA.
Neither the Suns nor the Clippers will have their star players in the lineup for Game 2. Chris Paul is out due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and Kawhi Leonard has been sidelined with an ACL knee strain since the end of the previous round.
|Game 2: #4 LA Clippers (0-1) vs. #2 Phoenix Suns (1-0)|
- Tip-off: 6pm PT
- Location: Phoenix Suns Arena, AZ
- Point Spread: PHX -4.5
- Total: 224 o/u
- Money Line: LAC +165 / PHX -185
- Series Line: LAC +340 / PHX -455
After losing Game 1, the Clippers come into Game 2 as a bigger underdog to win the series at +340 odds. The Suns saw their series odds bump to -455 to win the conference finals. The Suns are +150 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship, according to the Circa Sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas. The Clippers are one of the long shots on the futures board at +800 odds.
Clippers: 4 guards in starting 5?
The Clippers don’t know when Kawhi will return to the lineup, but they have a bigger problem right now with Marcus Morris. Morris suffered a knee injury in the second half of Game 1, and he’s questionable for Game 2.
With two forwards potentially down, head coach Ty Lue could roll the dice with a conventional lineup in Game 2 with center Ivan Zubac returning to the starting lineup. When Lue opted for a small-ball lineup against the Dallas Mavs and Utah Jazz, Zubac came off the bench. In Game 1, Zubac scored just nine points in 18 minutes.
Of course, Lue could double down with an even smaller lineup by tapping Luke Kennard. Would he consider a quartet of guards against the Suns in Game 2? He employed a triple-guard starting five in Game 1 with Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Terance Mann. How about a quad-guard option with George, Jackson, Mann, and Kennard?
“I promise that we’ll adjust,” said backup center Boogie Cousins.
George led the Clippers with 34 points and seven 3-pointers in Game 1’s loss. Jackson added 24, but shot just 4-for-12 from beyond the arc. Mann hit all three of his 3-point attempts, but was held to just nine points after erupting for a career-high 39 points in the series clincher against the Jazz. The Suns’ defense zeroed in on Mann and made sure he wasn’t going to replicate his voluminous scoring effort from the previous game.
“I expect us to get better as the series goes,” George told the LA Times. “We’ve been great at it. It’s nothing to kind of panic over right now. But good thing about it, we expect a long series. All they did was win one game.”
Devin Booker rising without CP3
The Suns didn’t skip a beat without Paul in the lineup in Game 1, with all five starters scoring in the double digits in the 120-114 victory.
Booker and backup point guard Cameron Payne did a stellar job filling in for CP3. Booker handled some of Paul’s playmaking assignment with 11 assists, while he picked up the scoring slack with a game-high 40 points. Booker also notched the first triple-double of his career thanks to 13 boards.
“I don’t understand why everyone’s acting surprised at this point,” said Jae Crowder. “This is his first time on this stage, but Devin is capable. He’s more than capable. More than ready. D-Book prepares like no other.”
“I’m just going out there to win every game possible,” said Booker. “I’ve been saying this since the start of the playoffs — every next game is the biggest game.”
After that spectacular performance in Game 1, Booker saw his NBA Finals MVP odds bump to +300.
Payne, a journeyman who went from the G League to a title contender, scored nine points and added nine assists as a starter in Game 1. Payne put the clampdown on a Mann, who came into the series red-hot.
The Suns are on a mission to win Game 2 and boost their series lead to 2-0 before they fly to Hollywood for Games 3 and 4. The Suns are also hopeful that Paul will return to the lineup as early as Game 3.
Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.