When the Los Angeles Clippers take on the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on Thursday, they’ll be looking to bounce back from a 2-0 deficit.
Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals will be a closely contested encounter, with the Los Angeles Clippers hoping to avoid falling deeper into a hole from which no team has ever recovered.
The Phoenix Suns might have easily lost Game 2, but with a last-second alley-oop dunk by Deandre Ayton, they beat the Los Angeles Clippers 104-103.
The LA Clippers are in familiar terrain after losing 0-2 in the first two rounds of the 2021 NBA Playoffs and will be confident moving into Game 3 when they finally play in front of cheering fans.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers | Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs
Time: Thursday, June 24th, 9:00 p.m. ET (Friday, June 25th, 6:30 AM IST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California
Preview of the Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are riding high after their recent victory, their second in a row in the series sans Chris Paul, their brave leader. After winning the last three games of the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers and sweeping the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals, they won Game 2 for the ninth time in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
According to ESPN, the Phoenix Suns are hopeful that Chris Paul will be able to play in Game 3. If he returns and the LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard does not, it will be a significant boost for the Suns, who have confidently grown as a unit during the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
The Suns’ shooters would benefit from Paul’s presence, as would Ayton, who loves on passes near the rim from the all-time great point guard. It should also free up Devin Booker’s time to focus on scoring rather than playmaking.
Devin Booker is a key player.
After a fantastic showing in Game 1, Devin Booker had a terrible shooting night on Tuesday. In one of his poorest postseason performances, the two-time All-Star went 5-of-23 from the field.
He did, however, make a game-winning jumper with 27.0 seconds left in Game 2 to give the Phoenix Suns a one-point lead. In the fourth quarter, Booker made all seven of his free shots with ease.
The 24-year-old will have to overcome his shooting issues in Game 3, especially in such a hostile setting. The Phoenix Suns will need him to get rolling quickly, since Patrick Beverley is expected to start on him for the second straight game. Beverley had been a thorn in his side the entire night and was the main cause of Booker’s problems.
Phoenix Suns Predicted Lineup: Chris Paul at point guard, Devin Booker at shooting guard, Mikal Bridges at small forward, Jae Crowder at power forward, and Deandre Ayton at center.
Preview of the Los Angeles Clippers
The LA Clippers will have to show their resilience in the 2021 NBA Playoffs once more if they hope to reach their first NBA Finals. Even without Kawhi Leonard for the second time in the series and Serge Ibaka out for the rest of the postseason, they fought against all odds and nearly got a crucial win on the road.
They will have to play with a sense of urgency from the start of Game 3 in order to make this a series. They had a good start on Tuesday but couldn’t sustain their effort, and the Phoenix Suns went on a run that kept the LA Clippers in their rear-view mirror for most of the game.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue will likely retain the same starters for Game 3, given how well they played with Beverley and Ivica Zubac starting.
Key Player – Paul George
It’s unfortunate that Paul George’s excellent crunch-time performance in the final few minutes of Game 2 will not be remembered. All that people will note is how he missed two free throws with 7.8 seconds to go. The seven-time All-Star scored nine points in the final 2:41 of the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns, including a pullup jumper with 22.2 seconds remaining to give the LA Clippers a 103-102 lead.
George will have to put his free-throw shooting woes (5-of-10 from the line in Game 2) behind him when he takes the floor for Game 3. All eyes will be on him once more with Leonard unlikely to return in time.
The Phoenix Suns’ Mikal Bridges has done an excellent job defending George, so his LA Clippers’ teammates will have to help him start the game on a high note.
LA Clippers Predicted Lineup
Point Guard – Reggie Jackson l Shooting Guard – Patrick Beverley l Small Forward – Paul George l Power Forward – Marcus Morris Sr. l Center – Ivica Zubac
Suns vs Clippers Match Prediction
The LA Clippers are in desperation mode again, but they are going to be calmer this time around. With the crowd behind them, they should be able to start the game with a lot of energy and execute their offense more smoothly.
But the Phoenix Suns are probably just as determined to get off on the right foot from the beginning. With Paul’s potential return, this will be a more organized team on offense and will have a stronger perimeter defense.
Both coaches have been on point in making adjustments on the fly and it will be up to the players to execute their game plan well. However, Paul’s presence could be the major difference here. Expect the Phoenix Suns to go 3-0 up against the LA Clippers, who will miss Leonard more than they think they will. But if Paul is out, give this game to the Clippers.