Does anyone feel like they’re suffering from deja vu? The Los Angeles Clippers have found themselves down 0-2 for the third consecutive time in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The Phoenix Suns pulled off a miraculous victory after a last-second inbounds play that led to a Deandre Ayton alley-oop. It was a tough loss for the Clippers, as they had the chance to close the game out. Paul George had the opportunity to prove himself but missed two free throws with just eight seconds left on the clock. This kept the Suns down by just one point and ultimately led to their game-winning conversion.
Paul George came back down to earth and the Suns have absolutely dominated the paint so far in this series. It’s been LA’s three-point shooting that has kept them within reach so far. Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard were both out for Game 2, and it’s yet to be determined whether or not they’ll participate in Game 3. With the Suns currently on a nine-game win streak in the postseason, Los Angeles will need all the help they can receive to get back into this series.
There is some good news for the Clippers though. This team is facing the same adversity they’ve faced in the previous two rounds and they have a ton of playoff experience. The Clippers seem to be at their best with their backs against the wall, so we likely haven’t seen the best version of this team yet. With that said, here are three reasons why the Clippers will bounce back against the Phoenix Suns.
The potential return of Kawhi Leonard
The Suns are an incredibly dangerous team, as they’ve been efficient throughout the season. With the potential of Chris Paul returning to the lineup for Game 3, Phoenix will only get better moving forward. If that’s the case, the Clippers are going to need Kawhi Leonard’s presence for the remaining of the postseason, as he is the deciding factor for Los Angeles. Leonard has had a ton of time to rest his injured knee, and hopefully, it’s been long enough, as the Clippers need his leadership.
If Leonard does in fact come back for Game 3, the Clippers will have a nice edge for the remainder of the series. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and can score at will. He has championship experience that can help push his team through the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. Keep a close tab on Leonard, as news around his availability should be released before Thursday.
Repeating a similar pattern
We’ve seen LA in this situation before. The Clippers fell 0-2 to the Dallas Mavericks and everyone thought they were done for. But the Clippers fought back and won the series in Game 7. Los Angeles lost its first two games to the Utah Jazz, lost Kawhi Leonard to injury, and still came back and won the series in Game 6. The saying goes, “history repeats itself,” and if that’s true, then the Clippers have nothing to worry about.
Additionally, the start of this matchup is extremely similar to the start of the series against the Jazz. In the first two games against Utah, the Clippers stayed within striking distance and had a chance to win Game 1. Now against the Suns, Los Angeles has kept both games close and came to a defensive play away from winning Game 2. Everything is all too familiar and the Suns should look to close out the series as soon as possible.
Better play is ahead of LA
According to the box score, the Clippers have underperformed in comparison to their yearly averages. They’ve shot right around 45% from the field in the first two games against Phoenix when the team averaged 48.8% on the year. Additionally, the Suns have overperformed, shooting over 50% from the field, where they typically shoot 49%. The differences are slight, but it’s enough of a difference that could change the outcome of the series if these teams go back to their yearly averages. Look for the Clippers to get hot in Game 3, as they hope to keep their playoff chances alive.