Five things to watch for in Phoenix Suns’ first game of 2023 playoffs

The Phoenix Suns will open their 2023 playoff run Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The Suns are the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference after they had a 45-37 regular-season record. Los Angeles, which is the No. 5 seed, finished with a 44-38 record. 

Phoenix is favored to win Sunday’s game by 7.5 points, according to DraftKings. The Suns also have the third-best odds of any team to win the 2023 NBA championship. 

Ahead of the Suns’ first game of their first-round series against the Clippers, here are five things to watch for. 


The Suns traded for superstar forward Kevin Durant Feb. 8, but the team has not gotten much time with him on the floor. 

Durant has played eight games with the Suns and has been effective. The team is 8-0 with him on the floor and started to look like a juggernaut just three games into his Suns tenure. 

Durant did not play the last two games of the regular season — along with starters Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton — to rest for the playoffs. That gave them a little more than a week to rest their bodies for what they hope will be a long run. 

Phoenix is expected to start its usual starting five with wing Josh Okogie, who has proven himself as a defender and earned the nickname ‘Nonstop’ for his efforts. But Phoenix can also employ forward Torrey Craig, who has length and ability. 

The Clippers narrowly beat the Suns in the regular-season finale for both teams last week, 119-114. Los Angeles struggled even though the Suns were without four starters and three rotation players. 

The bench vs. the Clippers’ depth 

Los Angeles’ depth is its biggest advantage in this series. The Clippers have nine active bench players who average more than six points per game, so the Suns will have their hands full. 

Thankfully, Phoenix has an advantage since it can have either Durant or guard Devin Booker on the floor at all times. Suns coach Monty Williams tried different rotations down the stretch of the season, so expect that to be something to watch for as well. 

Norm Powell is the Clippers’ leading bench scorer at 17.0 points per game. Remember: Los Angeles does not have starting forward Paul George to start this series. He has a right knee sprain and may not even play in the first round. 

The Suns have been a juggernaut with Durant in their starting lineup. But can they handle a perceived disadvantage once their depth is tested? 

Coaching battle 

This is a big postseason for Williams, who indicated in the past the Suns were perhaps one piece away from winning a championship. 

Phoenix’s last two postseasons have ended in big disappointment. The Suns led 2-0 in their NBA Finals loss to the Milwaukee Bucks two years ago and in their semifinal loss to the Dallas Mavericks last season but lost both series. 

Williams has been known to trust his rotation players who have been in his system for a long time. It is why he has earned trust from his players and fostered a culture that has been very patient with each of its players. 

But there comes a time when rotations have to be made for the betterment of the team, if the Suns hope to win a championship. Will Williams be able to adjust? Or will his trust be a fault? 

Meanwhile, Clippers coach Ty Lue is an NBA champion and led the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals two years ago, when they were without Kawhi Leonard (ACL) in the final round. Lue’s teams have been resilient, as the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to beat the Golden State Warriors in 2016. 

The Suns took care of the undermanned Clippers two years ago. They will need to play well again and out-coach Lue in order to advance this time. 

Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in the postseason 

We know who Booker is. We know who Durant has been. Can they put it together for a deep playoff run? 

Booker and Durant combined for the most points as a duo (290) in their first five games as teammates since the 1962-63 season, when Wilt Chamberlain did it with the San Francisco Warriors. They have been arguably the best duo in the NBA to this point, something we outlined in multiple graphics on social media. 

Booker is used to the playoffs even though he is 26 years old. He has Finals experience, which is extremely valuable alongside a player like Durant, a two-time Finals MVP. 

Importance of home court advantage 

The Footprint Center is home of some rowdy Suns fans. We’ve seen how lively Phoenix has been during the last two postseason runs, as fans have adapted a culture of phrases and lingo surrounding the Suns’ corps. 

Phoenix’s home court advantage has been praised by analysts in the last two playoff runs. With Durant in the mix, the Suns’ crowd should be ecstatic Sunday. 

If the Suns’ fans can bring great energy, it will help their team build on momentum even more. With a new team, you’ll need all the energy you can get. 

The Suns and Clippers tip off at 5 p.m. PT. The game will be televised by TNT

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