There are losses. Then there are last-second losses that knock the wind out of you. The Los Angeles Clippers have battled through so much this postseason, but that “Valley-Oop” from the Phoenix Suns to seal their fate in Tuesday’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals is probably the worst — and that’s saying something.
But, down 0-2 in the series, this is a spot with which the Clippers are very familiar. However, the Suns have won six straight and overcame an off game from Devin Booker to win. The series price has Phoenix to win at -700. But the Clippers will look to strike back as the series heads to the Staples Center. The NBA betting odds are at a pick’em for this Thursday night.
Phoenix: ‘Suns In Four’
If you don’t know yet, the “Suns in Four” meme lives on as Phoenix escaped Game 2 with an improbable win. That is a confidence booster, especially for a team that shot 50 percent overall despite hitting just six of their 26 three-pointers.
Booker was limited to just 20 points on 5-of-16 shooting, his worst outing since Game 3 versus the other LA team. But guard Cameron Payne stepped up in a major way and recorded 29 points and nine assists with zero turnovers. Deandre Ayton, one-half of the Valley-Oop with forward Jae Crowder, also delivered with 24 points and 14 boards on 12-of-15 shooting.
Phoenix Suns (@Suns) June 23, 2021
The Suns have remained unbeaten without Chris Paul and it’s a testament to how strong-willed this team is. Role players like Payne stepping up and Ayton living up to his draft status speak of a team that feels destined to make the NBA Finals.
Clippers: Hello, Old Friend
But despite Phoenix’s hot streak, the LA Clippers have been in both games and the series could easily have been 2-0 in their favor. Alas, the Clippers find themselves in an 0-2 hole for the third straight series and they still don’t have Kawhi Leonard to help dig them out.
Paul George led the team with 26 points but shot just 5-of-10 from the line, including bricking two critical free throws in the end. Still, the former MVP finalist has been playing like one since Leonard went down.
The Clippers outshot the Suns from deep for a second straight game but still couldn’t close them out. They’ll have to find a way to prevent the likes of Ayton and Payne from scoring inside while maintaining their shooting edge. A tough ask, but bet online on coach Ty Lue to have something drawn up.
Pick: Game 3 Clippers
We have the “Suns in Four” Suns, but we also have “Game 3 Clippers.” The Clippers are 2-0 in Game 3s. In Dallas, they played one of their most efficient games shooting a whopping 70.3 true shooting percentage (TS%). Against the Jazz, they dropped 132 points and shot 52.8 percent from three.
It’s worth noting that Leonard was present in both games and averaged 35 points for both. George averaged 30 points as well. From Game 3 onward, the Clippers shot over 52 percent against the defensive juggernaut Utah Jazz and also held the high-powered Mavericks to just 42.3 percent.
Phoenix has been impressive, but they’ve just been getting by these games. Ayton will constantly be a force, but the Clippers will continue to limit the effectiveness of their backcourt, even if Paul returns.
Pick: Los Angeles Clippers -1
Bonus Pick: Punch It
The last game didn’t turn out to be as high scoring as we predicted. Both teams played efficiently, but the Suns throwing up bricks from distance sunk the over. But heading to the Staples Center, the Clippers average a 127.3 offensive rating.
They’ve scored their three highest games here and the over has hit in three of their last four home games. Even with improved defending, the hot shooting should carry the totals.