Hello and welcome to the Western Conference Finals Game 2 preview and picks!
The Suns secured a victory over the Clippers in Game 1 behind Devin Booker’s first career playoff or regular season triple-double in which he had 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists.
It was also Booker’s second time this season reaching double-digit assists in a game, which was most likely due to the absence of star point guard Chris Paul who was missing from Phoenix’s offense.
Paul has also been ruled out for Game 2 as he is still dealing with the NBA’s Covid Safety Protocols.
Booker’s historic triple-double marked the first playoff triple-double by a Suns player since Steve Nash in 2005, and the first 40 point triple-double since Charles Barkley in 1993.
In their 120-114 win, the Suns got some role players that stepped up in big ways.
The Suns and Clippers were tied heading into the fourth quarter, but after a few huge shots from Mikal Bridges, the Suns were able to hold onto their late lead and close out the game.
Paul George led the way for the Clippers with 34 points but was kept in check in the fourth quarter leading to the Suns’ late pull away. Reggie Jackson stepped up in the absence of Kawi Leonard and provided 24 points.
Since Kawhi has been out, George is averaging 33.0 ppg with a 33.5% usage rate (up from 24.9 ppg and 27.9% usage with Leonard), while Jackson has averaged 24.3 points on 56% shooting. Leonard will remain sidelined indefinitely and will miss Game 2 with a knee injury.
Keys for Western Conference Finals Game 2
Heading into this Conference Finals Series, the Clippers were the best team at defending the paint, allowing the fewest points of any team at 37.7 points in the paint per game for their opponents.
This did not continue in their Sunday matchup against the Suns in which they were outscored in the paint 54-34 and allowed Deandre Ayton to score all 20 of his points in the paint on 10-14 shooting. The Clippers need to get back to defending the paint well if they want to contain the Suns’ offense.
The Clippers were able to keep up with the Suns in Game 1 due to their 3-point shooting.
The Clippers shot 20-47 from deep, marking only the seventh time this season that the Clippers have made more than 20 3-pointers in a game. Prior to Monday, they had won every other time they achieved this accomplishment.
If the Clippers can maintain this shooting stroke, they will be a hard team to contain.
For the Suns, the key is shutting down Paul George on the defensive end, and continue to give the ball to Devin Booker on the offensive end.
Paul George will most likely be seeing a lot of Mikal Bridges tonight. When defended by Bridges in Game 1, George only managed 5 of his 34 points in around 5 minutes of matchup time. This equated to about 15% of George’s points on around 35% of his offensive usage.
For Devin Booker on the offensive end, he will need to continue to play make in Chris Paul’s absence and take the role of Chris Paul as the pick and roll ball handler.
Ayton managed to get all those opportunities in the paint because of the work he and Booker did in the pick and roll. Look for the Suns to continue that tonight.
Western Conference Finals Game 2 Prediction
Game 1 of this series was a tight one throughout with Devin Booker and Paul George leading their respective teams. I expect more of the same from both of them tonight and another close affair.
Oddsmakers have the Suns as 4.5 point favorites at home which is not too much of a stretch. But with the way the man formerly known as “Pandemic P” has been performing, I expect him to keep this one close and maybe even pull out the victory.
Final Pick: Clippers +4.5