Three reasons why the Suns are the betting favorite against the Clippers tied 1-1

The Los Angeles Clippers were always going to have their work cut out against the might of the Phoenix Suns, but after an impressive Game 1 victory they nullified their opponent’s home court advantage and put themselves right in the series. They couldn’t back it up in Game 2 though, and locked at 1-1 the Suns are the relatively comfortable betting favorite. Here are three reasons why.

1. Kevin Durant

With Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton leading the charge, the Suns were a good team; good enough to make the NBA Finals in the 2020-21 season. But after being eliminated in the Conference Semis the year after, they were once again heading towards being a middling playoff team this season. Until, that is, they acquired Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets.

Any team gaining arguably the most talented offensive player of all time is clearly going to improve significantly, and with Durant on board the Suns have skyrocketed into Western Conference favoritism. After being traded in February, he only suited up in eight regular season games, but the Suns won all of them. Their Game 1 loss to the Clippers was their first with KD on the floor that they lost, and they of course quickly bounced back with a comfortable win a couple of days later. Durant is the best player in a series with plenty of very, very good ones, and his presence swings this matchup significantly in the favor of the Suns.

2. Starting fives

While Durant is the best player in the series, he’s not the sole reason they’re the betting favorites. There is no denying that there’s a significant talent differential in these starting fives, and not just at the top. At his best, Kawhi Leonard can just about go toe-to-toe with Durant, but thereafter things start looking a little grim for the Clippers.

With Paul George absent for this entire series, their second best player is Russell Westbrook. For the Suns, it’s Devin Booker. The other guards are Chris Paul, who may be a long way past his best but remains one of the greatest passers in the game’s history, and Eric Gordon, who averages 11 points since joining the Clippers and doesn’t do much else. At center, Deandre Ayton is a significantly better player than Ivica Zubac, while rounding out the fives is Torrey Craig and Nicolas Batum. The latter of those is really the only matchup in which the Clippers aren’t comfortably outgunned, but even then Craig has been terrific in the first two games of this series, averaging 19.5 points on over 71% shooting. If George was available it would be a different story, but with him out the Suns have a much, much better starting five than their opposition in this series.

3. Mid-range game

Now to the actual nitty-gritty of the matchup. The Suns are a mid-range team at heart; those looks are what KD wants, they’re what Booker wants, and when he’s trying to score, they’re what Chris Paul wants. And so far this series, the Clippers have given them exactly what they want. Over the first two games the Suns have taken 60.3% of their shots from the mid-range, the most in the postseason so far, per Cleaning the Glass. Compare that to the Clippers, for whom just 44.8% of shots have come from the mid-range.

Of course, in the modern-day NBA giving up mid-rangers isn’t a bad thing; if you’re stopping teams getting to the rim and not giving up good looks from beyond the arc, most of the time you’re doing something right. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they’re coming up against some of the best mid-range shooters in the league and indeed of all time. Of that huge quantity of looks that the Suns are getting from the mid-range in this series, they’re hitting 55.2% of them, the second best rate in the postseason. Therein lies the difficulty facing the Suns; they’re a good three-point shooting team, too, and you certainly don’t want to be letting them get to the rim too often. The mid-range, however, is where a lot of these guys make their money, and if they keep getting the looks that they want from that area they’ll put up plenty of points.

The Clippers were impressive in Game 1, and were in Game 2 up to their eyeballs until the Suns took things up a notch in the final quarter. But despite the series being locked at 1-1, the Suns are the comfortable favorite to win the series. With Durant running amok, a much deeper starting five and the Suns rolling from the mid-range which they so adore, the Clippers are up against it to win the three more games they need to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The post Three reasons why the Suns are the betting favorite against the Clippers tied 1-1 appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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