Paul George and the LA Clippers try to even the West Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 Tuesday night. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)
- The Phoenix Suns open as six-point favorites in Game 2 of West Finals on Tuesday
- Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (knee) and Suns’ Chris Paul (COVID) are both out
- Read below for a complete look at the matchup and a pick on the game
Monday’s confirmation that Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul will miss Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was tough news for NBA fans, but crucial news for bettors.
After they won a thrilling series opener on Sunday, the Phoenix Suns return as 5.5-point favorites on Tuesday night (ESPN, 9pm ET). Knowing that stars for both teams are scratches heading into Game 2 helps, but now the question becomes: how does each team respond to Game 1’s result?
Los Angeles Clippers vs Phoenix Suns Odds
|Team||Spread at FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+5.5 (-114)||+180||O 224.5 (-108)|
|Phoenix Suns||-5.5 (-105)||-215||U 224.5 (-112)|
Odds as of June 21st
To Play or Not To Play?
Leonard strained his knee in the Clippers’ previous series against Utah and has missed the last three games, including Sunday.
Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 2 as expected, Ty Lue confirms.
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) June 21, 2021
The star forward didn’t travel with the team to Phoenix for Game 1, which gave the impression that he was ruled out for the first two games of the series. Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue initially left the door open for Leonard to return on Tuesday, but announced on Monday that he will not play in Game 2.
Missing him might be all the more troublesome if Marcus Morris continues to be hampered by whatever caused the soreness in his knee during Sunday’s game.
REPORT: Chris Paul has been “symptoms-free” since he tested positive for COVID, via @ChrisBHaynes
Phoenix hopes Chris Paul will return “at some point early in the Western Conference finals.”
Great news. 🙏🙏🙏 pic.twitter.com/8X2SBWCTT4
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 21, 2021
Suns fans were hopeful Paul could get back on the floor after being placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol after their last series against Denver. The specific amount of time he was required to isolate wasn’t given, but because he’s been vaccinated, it’s reported to be shorter than required of an unvaccinated player.
Cam Payne stepped in for Paul in Game 1, and finished with 11 points and 9 assists in 29 minutes.
Clippers vs Suns Projected Lineups
|Reggie Jackson||PG||Cameron Payne|
|Terance Mann||SG||Devin Booker|
|Paul George||SF||Mikal Bridges|
|Nicolas Batum||PF||Jae Crowder|
|Ivica Zubac||C||Deandre Ayton|
Another player that will sorely miss Leonard in the lineup for the Clippers after Game 1 is Paul George.
George has been lauded for his performances following Leonard’s injury, but he masked a poor shooting night with some clutch buckets on Sunday. He made just 4-of-14 shots from the field in the second half of Game 1, but still managed to finish with 34 points.
Paul George is the 4th player over the last 10 seasons to score 20 points in each of his team’s first 14 games of a postseason, joining Kevin Durant, James Harden and LeBron James. pic.twitter.com/SNUSz7MX7k
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 20, 2021
Phoenix even did a good job of defending the shots George made, which added to the frustration of not having another presence like Leonard on the court to pull some of that pressure away.
The Clippers made Devin Booker a clear priority on defense, and had a man tight on his hip as often as possible. Booker still blew up in the third quarter and made 7-of-11 field goals to ignite the home fans as part of a 40-point, 13-rebound, 11-assist night. Lue said after the game that LA was pressuring him too high up the floor and gave him too much space to work.
Devin Booker (40 PTS, 13 REB, 11 AST) recorded his first career triple-double in Phoenix’s Game 1 win ☀️ pic.twitter.com/j4RJQSyWil
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 20, 2021
Despite Booker’s high scoring total, the extra space really seemed to benefit Payne, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson off the wings. The Suns also hit the gas on offense as a team and scored 16 fast break points — well over their average of 12.7 in their previous three games.
Without Paul, Phoenix also increased its made three-pointers and points in the paint against a Clippers side that has been around a top-10 defense in each of those categories this season.
2021 NBA Championship Odds Tracker
Expect the Unexpected
The Suns have played without Paul just three times this season, but went 3-0 overall, 2-0-1 against the spread, and over the point total in all three. In the 20 games the Clippers have played without Leonard, they are 11-9 outright, 8-11-1 ATS and finished under the total 11 times.
The Clippers had to scrap for everything in Game 1 just to make it interesting and came up short. They looked especially flat-footed in the first half after having wrapped up their series against Utah just two nights prior.
Devin Booker’s always been nice.
He’s just playing in June now.
— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) June 20, 2021
Expecting Booker to reproduce his Game 1 performance would be bullish, but he’ll still be the most dynamic player on the court. Los Angeles has only been an underdog by four points or more four times this season and finished 0-4 outright and 1-3 ATS. The Clippers are getting worn down, and the Suns should feel comfortable at home once more with Paul likely back for Game 3.
- The Pick: Phoenix – 5.5 (-105)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.