Ten takeaways from Suns’ 129-124 win in Game 3 over Clippers

The Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 129-124, Thursday night in Game 3 of their first-round series of the NBA playoffs. 

Phoenix took a 2-1 series lead with its victory at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. 

The Suns were led by shooting guard Devin Booker, who had a masterful performance with 45 points on 18-of-29 shooting. Booker joined Charles Barkley as the only Suns player to have at least five 40-point playoff games. 

Booker is also the current leader in the postseason for points per game (36.3). 

Forward Kevin Durant also had 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He is averaging 26.7 points for the series on 51.0 percent shooting with 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists this series. 

The Suns also got a positive performance from their bench, as center Bismack Biyombo was a plus-18 in 11 minutes and guard Damion Lee had two 3-pointers. 

Game 4 will be Saturday in Los Angeles at 12:30 p.m. PT. 

Here are ten takeaways. 

Booker’s Masterpiece 

Devin Booker has played like the best player in the world this postseason. 

Booker carved up the Clippers’ defense to the tune of 45 points Thursday night. He got to the cup at will against Los Angeles’ starting lineups and busted the team’s multiple defenses over and over again. 

If you need to see how much Booker had it going, look no further than this fadeaway 3-pointer in the third quarter. 

Booker could not be thwarted from the rim in the second half and even hit an acrobatic layup that sealed the game for the Suns in the final minute. 

Booker is the Suns’ best player right now, and he told reporters after the game he could have played the entire contest. He has played the best basketball of his career since he returned from a groin injury suffered in February. 

Suns outlast Leonard-less Clippers 

Los Angeles was without its best player, Kawhi Leonard, in Thursday’s game after it was reported he suffered a right knee sprain in Game 1 of this series. Leonard played through the injury in Game 2 and is day-to-day for Game 4, according to ESPN.

The Clippers are also without wing Paul George, who is out with a right knee sprain. George is not expected to return in this series. 

Los Angeles played one game without Leonard and George and with point guard Russell Westbrook, a game they won and made 22 3-pointers in. The Clippers made 15 threes Thursday, and Westbrook went for 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting with 12 assists and eight rebounds. 

Los Angeles was competitive throughout the night, even when the Suns began to take control in the third quarter. The Clippers were feisty but also gave up 18 turnovers, which led to several transition buckets for Phoenix. 

Leonard’s status is to be determined for Game 4. If he is back, the Suns will have a very big challenge in trying to take a 3-1 series lead. If he is not, that will remain the case by Los Angeles’ offense will be by committee, which makes the Suns’ defensive necessities a little easier to do. 

46 Free-Throw Attempts 

Suns coach Monty Williams complained about officiating after the team’s 122-111 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on March 22. The Lakers received 46 free throws that night, which led to Williams taking a fine for saying a number like that should not happen. 

The Suns received plenty of calls in their favor in Game 3. They shot 46 free throws themselves, which only aided an impressive performance by Booker and the team’s starters. 

The Clippers are a physical team, and they needed to expend a lot of energy in order to have a shot at beating Phoenix without Leonard. That may have hurt them at times, but there was no doubt the Suns got some beneficial calls. 

Doubling Durant Leads to open Booker, an Unstoppable Offense 

Booker and Durant have proven they are likely the NBA’s best duo. Both players have balled out in this series and have been almost impossible to guard, which should be the case throughout the playoffs if the Suns advance. 

Los Angeles has been very aggressive with Durant, bringing late double teams to force him off his spots and create precarious positioning for him offensively. Durant struggled a bit Thursday with six turnovers but still had a very effective game. 

If the Clippers are going to over-commit on Durant, Booker will be open, which happened again and again Thursday night. Expect Los Angeles to make adjustments but Durant is very capable of popping off if he needs to. 

Struggles from Ayton, Paul 

The Suns need all five of their starters to play at a high level in order to win their first-ever championship. Booker and Durant have had good series but starting point guard Chris Paul and center Deandre Ayton have been inconsistent. 

Paul closed Game 2 with two jumpers in three possessions in the fourth quarter, but he shot just 5-of-18 in Game 3. Paul took more shots than Durant (15), which should not happen if the Suns are getting the ball to their two best players consistently. 

Ayton put up historic numbers in the Suns’ playoff run two years ago but had a tough performance Thursday. He finished with a double-double at 12 points and 11 rebounds but struggled early with his catches and asserting himself. 

The Clippers often put smaller players on Ayton, who needs to establish himself in the paint and create passing lanes for his teammates. He may not be a main offensive option but he can still be very effective if he rebounds on one end, runs the floor on the other and makes himself a threat. 

The Suns did enough to win Game 3 but they will need better performances out of Paul and Ayton to continue to advance in the playoffs. 

Norm Powell a threat to this series 

The Clippers needed their team by committee to step up, and guard Norman Powell did just that. 

Powell had 42 points on a very efficient 15-of-23 shooting and also made seven of his team’s 3-pointers. 

Powell was traded to the Clippers last February but was unable to make an impact for the team due to a fracture in his left foot, which sidelined him for two months. Los Angeles did not make the playoffs due to injuries from Powell, George and Leonard, who rehabbed from a torn ACL. 

Powell is a tough player to account for since he can shoot and create opportunities on his way to the basket. To some extent, Phoenix has to live with other players trying to extend themselves without Leonard but Powell proved he can provide an impact himself. 

The Suns will have to account for Powell in Game 4 in order to take a 3-1 series lead. 

Suns benefit from Clipper turnovers 

Los Angeles turned the ball over 18 times – including six from Westbrook – Thursday night. The Suns had 16 fastbreak points, which is when they are at their best as a unit. 

The Clippers do not have a consistent go-to option with Leonard out. Westbrook is still a great player but can be up-and-down through the course of the game. That materialized in Game 3, as the Suns got more opportunities on the break along with their free throws. 

Torrey Craig, again! 

The Suns inserted forward Torrey Craig into the starting lineup for Game 1 in place of wing Josh Okogie, who started the team’s last 25 games of the regular season. 

It seemed to disrupt continuity, as Okogie only played seven minutes in Game 1. But even though bench minutes need to be ironed out, Craig continued to have a huge impact for the Suns with 15 points on 3-of-5 shooting. He had the best plus/minus in Phoenix’s starting five (+5). 

Craig had key plays in the fourth quarter, including an offensive rebound that led to a foul call and then a corner 3-pointer to give the Suns a 122-116 lead with 1:24 left. 

Craig is right behind Booker and Durant for the third-most points per game (18.0) by a Suns player this series. He proved himself as a crucial bench player in the team’s run to the NBA Finals two years ago. Now, he is hitting big shots for a team that has new personnel and needs every contribution it can get to come together. 

Biyombo, bench get it done 

Biyombo is very limited from an offensive standpoint, but the Suns know they are going to get consistent, high-motor minutes from him when he steps on the floor. They got it Thursday night. 

Biyombo had four points, four rebounds and two assists in Game 3 but was very positive overall for the Suns. As mentioned earlier, Biyombo was a plus-18 and very active around the basket. He even had five free-throw attempts for his efforts. 

Biyombo has seemed to secure the Suns’ starting center position over Jock Landale. Landale can provide a bigger offensive boost but Biyombo is a rim protector who knows his role and has seemed to affect the game positively every time he’s been on the floor lately. 

Game 4 turnaround 

The Suns have a 2-1 series lead but they’ll be back Saturday for an early game. 

Game 4 will tip off at 12:30 p.m. PT Saturday, just about 41 hours after tip from Game 3. It is a quick turnaround for Phoenix to recover as well as Los Angeles, which is probably trying to get Leonard ready as soon as possible if they can. 

Game 4 is extremely important for both teams. If the Suns win, they have a chance to close out the series in Game 5 at home. If the Clippers win, a Game 6 is guaranteed, which means the Suns would have to head back to Los Angeles to play another road game.

Los Angeles is a very difficult team, so the Suns need to take advantage of the opportunities they get to close them out.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

My Cart Close (×)

Your cart is empty
Browse Shop
Zeen Subscribe
A customizable subscription slide-in box to promote your newsletter
[mc4wp_form id="314"]
Subscribe for notification