Ten takeaways from Suns’ Game 2 win over Clippers

The Phoenix Suns evened their first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night with a 123-109 win at Footprint Center. 

The Suns were led by guard Devin Booker, who led both teams with 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting with nine assists. Booker took the game over in the third quarter with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting. 

Phoenix trailed by as many as 13 points in the second but went on a 23-10 run to tie the game at halftime. After taking a double-digit lead in the third quarter, Phoenix held the Clippers to just 22 points in the fourth period and pulled away for a 14-point win. 

The Suns’ season appeared to be on the line when they were down by double digits in the second. But thanks to the heroics of Booker and the Suns’ starting five – all of whom scored in double figures – Phoenix was able to get an important win. 

Here are ten takeaways from Tuesday’s win. 

Booker’s masterpiece 

Booker had a positive performance in Game 1 but took over in Game 2, which the Suns needed in order to win. 

Phoenix’s point guard depth is shallow since backup guard Cam Payne missed the first two games due to lower back soreness. Payne is questionable for Thursday’s game, according to Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. 

The Suns’ offense has thrived on team-oriented play in the last three seasons, but things need to change if they are going to maximize this team. They have two of the best scorers in the NBA with Booker and forward Kevin Durant, and they unleashed them in Game 2. 

Booker was very aggressive in the third quarter in finding his shot and creating for others. On top of his own shot making, he found forward Torrey Craig for 3-pointers and pushed the pace for the Suns’ offense. 

Booker was a plus-15 for the game in 45 minutes (this will be discussed later). He balled out and the Suns needed it to get an important win. 

Kevin Durant gets more looks 

Suns coach Monty Williams was criticized for not running the Suns’ offense through Durant, who is still arguably a top-3 player – if not the best player – in the NBA today. 

Durant scored the Suns’ first points of the game and received more consistent opportunities. He had 10 points in the second quarter, which helped Phoenix tie the game at halftime. 

Durant had fewer points (25) than Game 1 (27), but he showed he is unstoppable when he gets the ball on a regular basis. Suns fans knew this, but it finally showed Phoenix did what it needed to do offensively: Get the ball to its stars and let them work. 


The Suns got big performances from Booker and Durant, which they needed to seal a win. But they expended a lot of energy. 

Booker played 45 minutes and Durant played 44. It is not ideal since the Suns need those two to win a championship, and they have to be as fresh as possible. 

Williams has not done a great job with rotations in this series. The Suns’ bench has had negative plus/minus through the first two games, and the rotations have been inconsistent. 

Payne’s return should clean things up, but Booker and Durant have to be somewhat preserved to make the most of this run. They were on the floor together for the entire first quarter and did not stagger as much as Game 1. 

Bench contributions 

After Williams employed lineups that had been rarely used together, he made things simpler Tuesday. 

However, it was not perfect. 

The Suns played backup guard Damion Lee and forward T.J. Warren – who each did not play in Game 1 – for three and two minutes, respectively. Wing Josh Okogie, who started Phoenix’s last 25 games of the regular season, played 15 minutes after he only played seven minutes Sunday. 

The moves made more sense given the continuity the Suns seemed to try to build at the end of the regular season. However, backup wing Terrence Ross did not play after Williams said after Game 1 he could have played him more. Ross played four minutes in Game 1. 

Backup guard Landry Shamet played 14 minutes and was a bench-best plus-4, but he has not provided the impact he is expected to give offensively as a shooter. 

Williams needs to find a rotation that works if the Suns are to win this series. They will have to rely on their starters but need a balance to make sure they do not get worn out. 

Chris Paul contributes 

Paul got a monkey off his back with a win in which notorious referee Scott Foster was in the game. 

Paul had lost his previous 13 playoff games he played in when Foster was a referee. 

When asked about Foster after the game, Paul said with a straight face, “I ain’t even notice.” He then spoke about how the Suns are trying to minimize distractions this postseason. 

Paul started 1-of-5 but made seven of his last nine shots, including a 4-of-7 mark in the fourth quarter with eight points. Paul had huge jumpers in two of three possessions that helped the Suns close the game in the final minutes. 

Paul, who is 37 years old, may not be the same player he was. However, Phoenix will need him to take over some fourth quarters and turn back the clock if it is to get the most out of this run. 

Offensive takeaway 

The Suns have a point-five offensive scheme in which they look to shoot, dribble or pass within ½ of a second. It is very productive from a one- or two-star standpoint, as Booker and Paul have flourished with spacing available to do what they do best. 

Times are different. The Suns have Durant, who is arguably the best scorer in NBA history given his three-level prowess and very rare ability at his height. Phoenix ran its offensive scheme as normal through the first five quarters of this series but changed things Tuesday. 

The Suns have to adapt to their personnel, something Williams has been criticized for not doing in the last two seasons. Booker and Durant are very special players, which means the Suns’ offense has to take advantage of their blessing to have them. 

By using those two players, the Clippers’ multiple defensive schemes will not have to guard a set offense. It will make them work and have to give up more shots to the Suns’ role players if Booker and Durant get going. 

Craig hit five 3-pointers (we’ll talk about him next) in Game 2. The Suns shot 24 as a team, a number they may like to see go up even more as this series goes on. 

Torrey Craig is the man 

Craig has been a veteran player for this Suns team as a part of three straight playoff runs. His insertion into the starting lineup for Game 1 was questionable but paid dividends, as he had 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. 

Craig had another impactful game Tuesday. He had 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting (66.7 percent) and made five 3-pointers, including two big ones in the third quarter.

Craig’s first in the period gave the Suns their first double-digit lead of the game, 71-61, with 8:39 left. His second extended the Suns’ lead to 82-75 after the Clippers cut Phoenix’s lead to four. 

Craig and others will have to knock down shots for Phoenix to maximize its team. He has come through so far, which is a very good sign for the Suns. 

Kawhi Leonard still hard to stop 

Leonard is a bad man. Let’s leave it at that. 

The Clippers’ superstar had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in Game 2. He shot 11-of-20 from the field and picked apart the Suns’ defense with switches on to their bigs. 

Leonard is going to get his in this series. Phoenix tried to limit him with double-teams, which worked to some degree. But the Suns’ rotations behind those traps have to be solid in order for it to work. 

Phoenix gave up some layup opportunities in the paint for Clippers centers Ivica Zubac and Mason Plumlee. The Suns will have to be especially keen on their rotations since Los Angeles has capable shooters in its starting five and on the bench. 

Suns dominate from jump-shooting 

Los Angeles narrowly won the battle in the paint, 44-38, in Game 2. The Clippers have used zone defenses, man-to-man coverages and traps to try to throw off the Suns, who had an incredible offensive rating of 121.0 in their eight regular-season games with Durant. 

The Clippers are trying to take away the paint from the Suns, who have struggled there this season. Starting center Deandre Ayton is a capable pick-and-roll threat, but Booker, Durant and Paul are very effective from mid-range. The Suns also had the fourth-best 3-point percentage in the NBA during the regular season, where they like to get several looks for their bench. 

Since Los Angeles is very strong defensively, the Suns may have to live with their shooting to win this series. It works to a degree since Booker and Durant are capable of scoring at three levels, but it does take away another point of emphasis if the Suns can’t get in the paint. 

Suns have momentum going into two road games 

Phoenix shockingly lost Game 1, which put it in a precarious position ahead of Game 2. The series is tied, but Los Angeles has an advantage right now since it stole home court advantage from the Suns. 

The Suns have plenty experienced players in this series, so it is nothing new to go in and steal a game on the road. But Game 3 is likely a must-win for both teams since it will decide momentum ahead of Game 5 in Phoenix, which tends to be a crucial game for a seven-game series. 

If the Suns win Game 3, they will regain homecourt advantage and put the Clippers on their heels for Game 4. Los Angeles continued to fight Tuesday, but the Suns still pulled away. If they maximize their stars, they should be able to have a great chance to win Game 4. 

Thursday’s game between the Suns and Clippers will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT on NBA TV. 

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