Five Things to Watch for in Suns’ Game 3 Test against Clippers

The Phoenix Suns face the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 of their first-round series Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised by NBA TV. 

The Clippers, who won Game 1 before the Suns won Game 2 in Phoenix Thursday, 123-109, will not be without their best player, forward Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is out due to a right knee sprain he reportedly suffered in Game 1 and played through in Game 2. 

Leonard is day-to-day for Game 4, which will be just 36 hours after Thursday’s game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Los Angeles is now down its best two players since forward Paul George is also out with a right knee sprain. He is not expected to return for this series, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The Suns will look to build on the momentum found in Game 2. They had all five starters in double figures in scoring, led by shooting guard Devin Booker with 38 points. 

Here are five things to watch for in Game 3. 

Trap Game? 

Los Angeles has only played one game this season in which Leonard and George were absent but point guard Russell Westbrook was available. The Clippers won that contest on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies, 141-132. 

Westbrook had a season-high 36 points in the game and the Clippers hit 22 3-pointers. 

The Clippers will need a similar formula tonight to beat the Suns, who recorded123 points Tuesday and shot above 50 percent from the field. Westbrook had 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting in Game 2 with five rebounds and five assists. 

Expect Los Angeles to put up a huge fight since its bench is scrappy and can employ multiple defenses directed by coach Ty Lue. The Clippers may even be more difficult to prepare for since they will rely on multiple offensive contributions rather than move their system through Leonard. 

Booker and KD on Offense 

After five quarters, the Suns figured out what fans and analysts were pleading for: Get the star players the ball. 

Booker took over in Thursday’s win with 18 third-quarter points on 7-of-8 shooting. Durant, who finished with 25 points and took 19 shots, had 10 second-quarter points that helped the Suns tie the game at halftime. 

Suns coach Monty Williams’ strength is directing a team-oriented system through his point-five scheme, in which players look to dribble, shoot or pass within half a second. 

It worked two years ago for the Suns, who were able to direct their offense through Booker and starting point guard Chris Paul. But when you have arguably the best player in the world – Durant – on your team, you have to run things through him. 

Defend the 3-Point Line 

Los Angeles struggled from the field to start Game 2 but built its lead thanks to its 3-point shooting. The Clippers hit eight of their 11 3-pointers in the contest in the first half before they were slowed by the Suns’ second-half defense. 

With guard, Eric Gordon and bench players Bones Hyland, Norm Powell, and Terance Mann, Los Angeles are likely to shoot a very high volume of threes in this game. The Suns have to be solid with their on-ball defense and make quick rotations in order to prevent the Clippers from doing so. 

Defense on Westbrook 

Westbrook is going to have the chance to take over tonight, which is actually when he is at his best. 

Westbrook is a high-volume shooter who can have very impactful games offensively or shoot very poorly from the field. Regardless, the Suns will have to have a plan to either try to let Westbrook do everything and extend himself or force shots from other players. 

Need a Win 

This is an opportunity the Suns have to take advantage of. Los Angeles is without Leonard and George, which is unfortunate for it, but Phoenix can take a 2-1 series lead if it secures this opportunity. 

That would regive the Suns' homecourt advantage and put them in a good position to go on and win the series. 

Stay tuned to Leezus Media for more coverage of Thursday’s game.

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