It’s do or die for the Los Angeles Clippers after the Phoenix Suns took a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals. The Clippers, who won’t have Kawhi Leonard in the lineup, are on the verge of elimination and the Suns have a chance to close out the series on their home court in Phoenix in Game 5.

Chris Paul George Game 5 NBA Playoffs LA Clippers Phoenix Suns Western Conference Finals
A disappointed and exhausted Paul George of the LA Clippers during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center in downtown LA. (Image: Getty)

The Suns are just one win away from locking up a berth in the NBA Finals. The Clippers are trying to focus on the task at hand — win Game 5 — and force a Game 6. They’ll have to figure out how to do that without Kawhi, who is still out with a knee injury.

The Clippers are +5 underdogs on the road in Game 5.

Game 5: #4 LA Clippers (1-3) vs. #2 Phoenix Suns (3-1)
  • Tip-off: 6pm PT
  • Location: Phoenix Suns Arena, AZ
  • Point Spread: PHX -5
  • Total: 214 o/u
  • Money Line: LAC +180 / PHX -205
  • Series Line: LAC +1400 / PHX -5000

The Suns are massive favorites at -5000 odds to win the series, whereas you can back the Clippers at +1400 odds to pull off a sick comeback with three-straight wins to stave off elimination.

The Suns are +100 odds, or even money, to win the 2021 NBA championship according to an update by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. The Bucks are a slight favorite at -115 odds to win the title after they regained the series lead at 2-1 over the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 7% stat

In the vast history of the NBA conference finals, teams that surge ahead to a 3-1 lead win the series and conference title 93% of the time. That means only 7% of teams that were down 3-1 rallied back to win three straight elimination games to complete the comeback. The actual record is 52-4, so just four teams were able to pull off a miraculous comeback.

Ty Lue has been on both sides of that 3-1 coin during his early coaching days with the Cleveland Cavs and LeBron James. The Cavs rallied from down 3-1 to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals to win the championship. Yet in the 2017 NBA Finals, the Warriors also stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Cavs and enact revenge.

“We beat Utah and won four games in a row,” said Lue. “So, it’s very doable.”

The Clippers fell behind 0-2 in the first and second rounds, but made NBA history by winning both rounds despite the deficit. The Clippers also fell behind the Suns 0-2 in the Western Conference finals, so this isn’t uncharted waters for them. However, a 1-3 hole is difficult to overcome with history against them heading into Game 5 against the Suns.

“We’ve been down before,” said Reggie Jackson. “It’s tough. We’ve had our backs against the wall and we’ve been in elimination games. Team is ready, and this team is confident.”

LA Clippers: Win or go home

The Clippers’ fate hinged upon an ugly stretch in the fourth quarter of Game 4. After winning Game 3, the Clippers were just 12 minutes away from tying the series at 2-2 during a low-scoring defensive standoff. However, a cold stretch in crunch time derailed their chances of evening the series. The Clippers shot just 2-for-17 in their last 19 shot attempts to end the game. The frigid-shooting Clips also went 0-for-12 on shots that could have tied the game, or put them ahead.

The Clippers were gassed, especially without Kawhi, and lost 84-80. Yes, that’s not a typo. The final score looked like something out of the rough-and-tumble mid-1990s, but both the Suns and Clippers struggled offensively in Game 4.

“Guys could be a little tired,” said Lue. “We’ve just got to fight through. I have no problem with the way we fought, the way we competed. Every single guy on the floor gave us what they had, and offensively it just didn’t happen.”

The Suns shot 36% from the floor and only 20% from 3-point range on a 4-for-20 clip. The Clippers were even worse, shooting 32.5% overall and an anemic 16.1% from 3-point land on 5-for-31 from downtown. To complicate matters, the Clippers shot 65.5% from the free-throw line, including several key misses down the stretch. Paul George struggled from deep, shooting 1-for-9 from beyond the arc, plus he choked at the free-throw line once again.

If the Clippers expect to extend the series, they must knock down their 3-pointers and shoot better from the charity stripe. They’ll also need a big game from Terance Mann. The hero of the previous series against the Jazz, Mann averages just 10.3 ppg against the Suns, who did a stellar job shutting him down.

Phoenix Suns: CP3 on verge of first NBA Finals

When Chris Paul played with the LA Clippers, they could never get over the hump in the postseason due to the dreaded Clippers Curse. Paul has never played in the NBA Finals, but he’s just one victory away from finally reaching the championship round.

“Not until the job’s done,” said Paul. “We can talk about all that then, but right now, it’s just laser focus. Three wins don’t win the series, so right now, we did what we came here to do,” said Paul. “We wanted to get one of these, and now we got to stay focused and be ready to go back to our crowd.”

The younger Suns and veterans like Jae Crowder are on a mission to help get Paul to his first NBA Finals. “We know how bad he wants it,” said Devin Booker. “We definitely have his back.”

“When you have an opportunity like this, you can’t take it for granted,” said Deandre Ayton, the former #1 pick in the NBA Draft. “I love CP, man. That’s really the only teammate that really pushed me. Like big-bro-type push. He was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day.”

The Suns don’t want to squander the chance to knock out the Clippers in Game 5 when they have them on the ropes. They know Game 4 could have easily gone the other way, especially if the Clippers hit their free throws.

“We just have to have a great deal of balance with our emotions and handle this the right way, not get too far ahead,” said head coach Monty Williams.

Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

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