The Clippers Curse is dead and the Los Angeles Clippers advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history after they defeated the top-seeded Utah Jazz in six games. The #4 Clippers now face the #2 Phoenix Suns with a berth in the NBA Finals at stake, but each team is down a star player at the start of the series with Chris Paul still out with COVID-19 and Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely with a knee injury.
The Phoenix Suns swept the #6 Denver Nuggets in the west semifinals, but Paul tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after and has been in quarantine ever since. He’s still adhering to the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols and he’ll miss Game 1. The Suns are hopeful Paul will be cleared in time to play in Game 2 on Tuesday.
|LA CLIPPERS vs PHOENIX SUNS – SERIES LINES|
|LA Clippers +155||Phoenix Suns -200|
|LA CLIPPERS vs PHOENIX SUNS – SERIES SCORE|
|Phoenix Suns Win 4-0||+900|
|Phoenix Suns Win 4-1||+350|
|Phoenix Suns Win 4-2||+375|
|Phoenix Suns Win 4-3||+340|
|LA Clippers Win 4-0||+2100|
|LA Clippers Win 4-1||+1200|
|LA Clippers Win 4-2||+600|
|LA Clippers Win 4-3||+700|
|CLIPPERS/SUNS TOTAL GAMES PLAYED|
The Suns are +250 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship, according to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. The Clippers are +400 odds to win the title.
The Clippers beat the Suns 2-1 during their regular season series. The Suns are -4 favorites heading into Game 1.
No CP3 for Game 1, Booker/Ayton Ready
The young core of the Suns — Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton — finally got their first taste of the postseason, but now they’re four wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
Booker averaged 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists against Denver. Ayton averages only 15.2 ppg and 10.6 rebounds in the postseason, but he’s been a stellar rim protector. The Suns have the best defensive rating (104.7) in the postseason thanks to Ayton.
Paul is not available for Game 1 and he will not be anywhere close to the arena, while still in quarantine. Paul was vaccinated in February so this is a rare breakthrough case.
“Based on the information and based on the history of this particular protocol, everything’s day-to-day,” said head coach Monty Williams. “Our guys understand that we’ve dealt with stuff this year, other teams have dealt with it, it’s just part of the NBA.”
The Suns hope to have Paul back for Game 2, but at least he gets an extra couple of days to rest his sore shoulder, which he injured in the first game of the playoffs against the LA Lakers.
Paul leads a well-balanced attack on offense and he makes sure everyone contributes. The Suns averaged 122 ppg during their sweep of Denver. The LA Lakers held the Suns to 104 ppg in the first round, but they averaged 114 ppg once Anthony Davis went down with an injury.
Next Man Up: Cameron Payne
Without Paul, backup point guard Cameron Payne will get his minutes at the onset of the Western Conference Finals.
“You’ve just got to have a mentality of next man up,” said Jae Crowder. “We have enough in our locker room, we feel, to get the job done.”
“Ready to do my job, whatever the situation,” said Payne.
Payne is a feelgood story because the former G League player and journeyman bench warmer could start in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Suns backup point guard filled in for Paul during the season and stepped up in the first round against the Lakers averaging 12.5 ppg and knocking down 40.8% of his 3-pointers.
No Kahwi, But Clips Got Terance Mann
The Clippers ended their curse without Kawhi because Terance Mann erupted for 39 points in Game 6 to clinch the Jazz series.
Mann, a second-year player out of FSU, scored just 25 points in the first five games during the second round. He unleashed a career-high 39 points in Game 6 starting in place of Kawhi.
“Just play my game, shoot the open shots,” said Mann said. “I trust my work.”
“He single-handedly willed us back,” sad Paul George.
Ty Lue opted for a triple-guard starting line up with Reggie Jackson, George, and Mann. The trio combined for 94 of the Clippers’ 131 points in Game 6. George added 28 and Jackson chipped in 27 to finally thwart the curse.
“You felt the monkey getting off the Clippers’ back,” added George.
It’s unknown if Kawhi plays at all this series. The Clippers said he’s out indefinitely and he did not travel with the team to Phoenix. If the Clippers expect to win without Kawhi, guys like Mann will have to step up and fill the void.
“Our team, they just don’t quit,” said Clippers head coach Ty Lue. “It’s a total team effort and we are all trying to win and our team is willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
“The playoffs are about grit,” said George. “It’s about fighting. It’s about whatever it takes, and time after time, we’ve shown that.”
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.