When the Los Angeles Clippers face the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Western Conference Finals on Sunday at Phoenix Suns Arena, they will be looking to break their Game 1 curse in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
So far in the 2021 NBA playoffs, the Clippers have been hesitant to get going. They were able to come back from 2-0 deficits against the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, respectively.
The Clippers are coming off a 4-2 victory against the Jazz in the Conference semi-finals. Despite losing Kawhi Leonard to a knee injury that will keep him out for the third straight game on Sunday, they will be in high spirits.
In his absence, Paul Goerge, Marcus Morris Sr., and Reggie Jackson were outstanding. To wrest home-court advantage from their opponents in Game 1, they’ll have to be at their best once more.
The Phoenix Suns, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-0 series win against league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. With an 80% win rate, they are the most successful team in the 2021 NBA playoffs so far.
The Suns will also be missing their leader, Chris Paul, who has been ruled out of the game on Sunday. After testing positive for Covid-19, he is currently in the league’s health and safety processes.
The likes of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder will have to step up big time in his absence to lead the team to a third consecutive Game 1 win of a series in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
LA Clippers Injury Report
The LA Clippers have ruled Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka out for Game 1.
Kawhi Leonard suffered a knee injury in Game 4 of the Utah Jazz series and hasn’t featured in the last two matches for the team. Reports say he hasn’t traveled with the Clippers to Phoenix for Game 1.
Coach Ty Lue said he was unsure of Kawhi’s availability in Game 2 of the series. It is feared to be an ACL injury, but there have been no concrete reports regarding the same. For now, the Clippers have listed him as ‘out indefinitely’.
Meanwhile, Ibaka underwent surgery for a back tightness problem that kept him out for a huge chunk of the regular season. He will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Phoenix Suns Injury Report
The Phoenix Suns have been forced to rule Chris Paul out for Game 1 against the LA Clippers as he is currently in the league’s health and safety protocols. The veteran point guard tested positive for Covid-19 on June 16th. There have been no further updates regarding his return.
Suns star Chris Paul (protocols) is out for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals vs. the Clippers.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 20, 2021
LA Clippers vs Phoenix Suns - Predicted Lineups
The LA Clippers could make a few changes to their lineup from the last match they played against the Utah Jazz.
Ivica Zubac could return in place of Nicolas Batum to limit the threat of Deandre Ayton in the series against the Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup will likely be the same. Reggie Jackson and Paul Goerge will start as guards, while Marcus Morris Sr. and Terrence Mann will pair up with Zubac on the frontcourt.
Meanwhile, Nicolas Batum, Luke Kennard and Rajon Rondo will likely play the most minutes coming off the LA Clippers bench.
Chris Paul's absence means the Phoenix Suns will be forced to make changes to their starting five.
Cameron Payne, who has been the first-choice bench player to play the backcourt rotation minutes, will likely pair up with Devin Booker as the shooting guard. The frontcourt will feature forwards Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder pairing up with center Deandre Ayton.
Meanwhile, Cameron Johnson, Torey Craig and Dario Saric will likely play the most minutes off the Phoenix Suns bench.
LA Clippers vs Phoenix Suns - Predicted Starting 5s
Point Guard - Reggie Jackson | Shooting Guard - Paul George | Small Forward - Terance Mann | Power Forward - Marcus Morris Sr. | Center - Ivica Zubac.
Point Guard - Devin Booker | Shooting Guard - Cameron Payne | Small Forward - Mikal Bridges | Power Forward - Jae Crowder | Center - Deandre Ayton.