3 bold Clippers predictions for Game 2 vs. Suns

Many wrote off the Los Angeles Clippers before the 2023 NBA playoffs even began. After all, facing the new-look Phoenix Suns with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul was already a difficult enough task on its own, but with Paul George out, the Clippers will have to rely on other more inconsistent role players to combat the Suns’ considerable star power. But in Game 1 of their first round series, the Clippers showed that they’re not mere pushovers. Here we’re making a few predictions on whether the Clippers can sustain that performance and go out to a 2-0 lead against the Suns.

If there’s any player whom fans could count on to show up when it matters most, it’s Kawhi Leonard. He has elevated his play over and over again in the playoffs; he’s a two-time Finals MVP for a reason.

And surely enough, Leonard was the Clippers’ steadying presence in what was such a helter-skelter Game 1 victory against the Suns. The Klaw ended that night with 38 points on 13-24 shooting, hurting the Suns all night long en route to a 115-110 win.

However, it was Russell Westbrook who stole the show. Despite shooting 3-19, Westbrook helped will the Clippers to victory with his relentlessness on the offensive glass and his pesky pursuit of the basketball from behind on the pick-and-roll. The 2017 NBA MVP even sealed the game with a ferocious block on Devin Booker, regaining possession as well after throwing the ball out of bounds off the Suns star.

Nevertheless, it’s still too early in the playoffs for the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard would know that a series lead isn’t safe until a team wins four games. Thus, the Clippers need to carry over this play into Game 2, and head home with a 2-0 series lead.

Let’s take a look at some bold predictions for how the Clippers would perform in Game 2.

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3. Norman Powell outscores the entire Suns bench… again

One of the main selling points of the Clippers as a team is their depth. As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”, and the Clippers, the team with the highest player salary payroll in the NBA, are reaping the benefits. And a big part of the Clippers’ bench mob is Norman Powell, a wing who can get buckets at will especially when he’s on a roll.

Powell, in particular, was huge for the Clippers in a few stretches with Kawhi Leonard sitting on the bench. He may have ended Game 1 with just 14 points, but given the timing of those buckets, he may as well have scored more than that figure.

But in Game 1, having Powell in and of itself was already such a huge advantage for the Clippers over the Suns. Powell scored more points than the entirety of the Suns bench (14-10), although that simply may be due to how terrible the Suns bench played in Game 1.

Even then, it will be highly unlikely for the Suns coaching staff to trust their bench players even more after that performance. Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, unexpectedly, played more minutes than Kawhi Leonard did — and that’s just the first game of the series. It’s counterintuitive for the Suns to play their role players more minutes the deeper they go into the series.

So it definitely makes sense that Powell outscores the entire Suns bench on his own once more.

2. Russell Westbrook shoots over 50% from the field

It’s time to get bold with these predictions.

Dating back to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first round series against the Utah Jazz in the 2018 playoffs, Russell Westbrook has shot the ball over 50 percent just five times in 25 postseason games. Westbrook’s jump shooting struggles become even more pronounced in the playoffs, and those struggles came to the forefront once more in Game 1 as he proceeded to miss 16 of his 19 shot attempts.

Of course, Westbrook still came up huge for the Clippers in the clutch with his hustle and heart, so that horrid shooting night did not end up costing them. But without Paul George, Westbrook will have plenty of touches — and shot attempts — and he will need to hit them at an efficient clip to help relieve Kawhi Leonard of his extremely heavy offensive burden.

And to his credit, Westbrook will step up in Game 2 and hit at least half of his shot attempts, all the while remaining an annoying defensive presence to deal with for the Suns.

1. Kawhi Leonard one-ups his Game 1 performance

Is there any way for Kawhi Leonard to improve upon his Game 1 display? Leonard had already hit contested shot after contested shot (every shot he took was contested, according to Second Spectrum), and he made two dagger triples in the fourth quarter to hold the Suns at bay. It was already a heroic performance, so to ask him to one-up that may be asking too much.

But Leonard is a different beast in the playoffs. Against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019, Leonard averaged 38 points on 61.8 percent shooting from the field in the first four games of the series, a herculean effort especially with the likes of Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler taking turns in guarding him.

Thus, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Kawhi Leonard to have yet another one of his signature playoff performances, which is exactly what the Clippers will be needing to go up 2-0 heading back into Los Angeles.

The post 3 bold Clippers predictions for Game 2 vs. Suns appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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