Things don’t look good for the Los Angeles Clippers at the moment, at least on the surface. They have lost the first two games of their Western Conference playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, and there is the possibility that Phoenix, which had the second best record in the league, will get Chris Paul back out of the COVID protocol for this one.
BetAnySports customers who watched Game 2, which went down to the last second – literally – have to be wondering what the Clippers will come up with to compensate for the absence of Kawhi Leonard. After all, it would help if they could throw a curveball the Suns’ way.
But L.A. comes back to its home floor, as Game 3 takes place at 9:05 PM ET on Thursday at the Staples Center.
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Paul George had the opportunity to play the hero’s role for the Clippers in Game 2. But he made just one of eight attempts from three-point territory and missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds that could have put Los Angeles up three points. And then Phoenix’s Jae Crowder, on a inbounds pass, found DeAndre Ayton on an alley-oop that brought the Suns a 104-103 win.
As of this writing, Phoenix is still trying to confirm that they can get Paul cleared and eligible to play on Thursday. The Clippers have not been very transparent about the extent of Leonard’s injury, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had mentioned that he may have an ACL injury, which would take him out for the rest of the series.
In the NBA Western Conference finals odds posted by the folks at BetAnySports, the Suns are the slight favorites playing on the road:
Phoenix Suns -1
Los Angeles Clippers +1
Over 219.5 points -110
Under 219.5 points -110
The Phoenix offensive effort would certainly look different with a return from Paul, who may have been the most valuable player in the league this season. Or maybe it wouldn’t. In Paul’s absence, the Suns got a simply awesome effort from backup point guard Cameron Payne, who averaged 8.4 points during the regular season but poured in 29 on Tuesday, adding nine assists.
And it’s a good thing he rose to the occasion, because Devin Booker, who exploded for 40 points in Game 1, had only five field goals and committed seven of Phoenix’s eight turnovers. When a guy like that has a Usage rate of 34.9%, it can put a team in trouble.
Ayton has hardly missed a shot (22 of 29, or 75.9%), and the Suns have been almost spotless from the line (92.6%), although it should be mentioned that free throws are not their stock-in-trade. For instance, Ayton, a center, has attempted just one shot from the charity stripe.
The Clippers have been top-heavy, as George and Reggie Jackson have taken almost half their shots. And DeMarcus Cousins has pretty much been a disaster. But L.A.’s metrics aren’t all that bad; they’ve hit 40.7% from the arc and have posted an Offensive Rating of 119.8.
Even with Payne having a career game, the Clips came to within a second of stealing a game in Phoenix without their best player. We might add that they have been down 2-0 twice already in these playoffs, and that teams who are in that position and coming back to their home floor have had the first half ATS advantage in 31 of the last 40 instances.
We think the Clippers can carry that first half and also keep things together in the second half, so we’ll go with them in this near pick’em situation.
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