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Western Conference Finals Preview: Suns vs. Clippers, what to know, and expect

Suns vs Clippers preview

The Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns square off in a Game 1 showdown for the Western Conference championship. The Clippers overcame 2-0 deficits to the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, respectively.

After the Suns fell behind 2-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers, they reeled off 7 straight victories, including a sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs. Both teams are battle-tested and look to inch one step closer to the NBA Finals. Here are things to watch for as the series progresses.

What will the Clippers do with no Kawhi?  The Clippers lost their star forward for Games 5 and 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Still, they emerged victorious behind performances from key role players Marcus Morris Sr., Patrick Beverley, and Reggie Jackson. All of these players nailed key shots to ensure there would be no Clipper collapse this season. Paul George stepped up big time in the absence of Leonard.

However, the player who emerged on the national scene was 2020 second-round pick Terance Mann, who poured in 39 points and hit seven three-pointers to close out the Jazz. His ability to step into Leonard’s starting spot and produce the numbers he provided against Utah will be key in keeping the pesky Suns at bay. Also, his defensive flexibility gives the Clips options on guarding star Suns guard Devin Booker.

Will CP3 be available? Chris Paul entered the league’s COVID protocol shortly after the Suns disposed of the Denver Nuggets in 4 games. Paul has been the center of the Suns’ turnaround, helping the team become one of the best in the NBA. His veteran presence has provided balance to a team with experience and youth, with Booker as the co-star with Paul.

2018 1st overall pick DeAndre Ayton has been consistent in giving the Suns a spark in the paint and wings. Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson nail clutch threes and play solid defense. Paul will be absent from Game 1, but his status going forward in the series will likely determine the outcome of the Western Conference Finals, or potentially the NBA Finals.

Can the Suns keep their winning streak going, and how will the Clippers handle unforeseen success? The Suns haven’t lost a playoff game in almost over two weeks, and their demolition of the Nuggets put the NBA on notice. Their ability to hit shots and play defense at an elite level makes them threats against any team they face, especially during the year.

Even without Paul, backup point guard Cameron Payne emerged as a key playmaker in the Lakers series, and Suns fans hope he will continue those efforts as the Suns get set to face the Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers are making their first appearance in the conference finals in franchise history. Many questions if this team peaked against the Jazz and that the energy used to defeat both the Mavericks and Utah will run out. This doubt seems legitimate, and we will know if this team is truly ready for the big-time on Sunday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images.

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