Western Conference Finals Preview – The Next First Step

When the list of potential NBA champions start rolling off your tongue, some of the teams left might make you pause. Out west, the two teams that are left might not be the names you originally had vying for conference supremacy.

The Los Angeles Clippers were definitely one of the favorites, but they are advancing without their best player. The Suns had one of the best records in the NBA, but very few had them making it this far. Now the Clippers will have to defeat the franchise’s greatest player (Chris Paul) to make their first ever NBA Finals.

 

Keys To The Series

The Clippers big three now consists of Paul George, Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson. The trio had a combined scoring average of 73.0 points in games five and six of the conference semifinals. They must continue their torrid streak as a trio to complete their championship aspirations.

The Clippers will need their bench to step up a bit. Outside of a 39 outburst by Terrance Mann to close out Utah, the bench hasn’t produced a ton of points. They will need someone to add some firepower off the bench whether its Mann, Patrick Beverley, or Rajon Rondo.

Los Angeles has been getting fully roasted by opposing guards during these playoffs. They will definitely have their hands full with the Suns backcourt. Los Angeles will have to find a way to limit perimeter scoring and keep the Suns at bay when it comes to their offensive rebounding.

The Clippers will need to defend the three point line much better in this series. They allowed Utah to shoot just over 40% from behind the arc. If The Suns are given that type of leeway, they will shoot the Clippers out of the gym.

Chris Paul will not play in game one and his status for game two is up in the air due to COVID protocols. The Suns are hoping it’s only one game but are confident his team mates can pick up the slack. Overall, they will need Paul and the 25.5 points he averaged in the sweep of the Denver Nuggets. His leadership and basketball IQ have been the biggest reason for the Suns’ turn around and his play will be vital for the team to advance.

The Suns will need to lean on Devin Booker more than usual in this one. He should have a heavy dose of shots at his disposal and he shouldn’t think twice about taking them, especially in any game Paul is not playing.

Phoenix should explore more shots in the lane and at the rim. The Clippers haven’t exactly defended down low better than the outside. If they can get more shots inside they could create more problems for an already short rotation for the Clippers.

The  Suns defense will have a tall task, but it won’t be impossible. Jae Crowder should get the lions share of duties when it comes to guarding Paul George. Crowder has the goods to stifle George and his intensity fuels the Suns’ defense.

The rest of the Suns need to stay on point in one on one situations. The Clippers sometimes get caught trying to play hero ball and individual players try to take over the game by themselves. If the Suns can keep those situations to single contested shots, it could disrupt the Clippers’ offensive flow.

 

X-Factor

Reggie Jackson’s play will be vital in this series and pretty much the rest of the postseason. He will have to continue to score to take pressure off of George and give Los Angeles a viable second option.

DeAndre Ayton’s growth has been evident during these playoffs. He should have plenty of opportunities to score inside and the Suns will need his rebounding to continue to be top notch.

 

Prediction

The Clippers have never made the NBA Finals and if Paul can play a majority of these games it will remain that way. I’m taking the Suns in seven games.

Ab Stanley

Atlanta, GA

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