On its face, it’s simple enough, but if the Phoenix Suns are to continue their upward climb, they simply have to get this right against the Clippers.
The Phoenix Suns have played about as well as to be expected so far in this season restart, going 2-0 after a romp over the Wizards and an empowering victory against the Mavericks. However their latest contest, against the Los Angeles Clippers, now THAT is big time.
You can take your pick of weapons on the Clippers roster. The serviceable folks in the backcourt like professional irritant Patrick Beverley, sharpshooter Landry Shamet, or the scoring expert Lou Williams, who has been quarantined for the past two games but is sure to make his return against the Suns (because, of course, he is.) Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker will be up to the challenge but make no mistake, that is exactly what it is.
You can look at the frontcourt, where Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Patrick Patterson control the lane on one end and stretch all the way out to three (with the exception of Zubac) on the other. The Phoenix Suns bigs will have themselves a matchup to be sure.
Making sure that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George don’t dictate the flow of the action will be huge for the Suns.
However, the single, absolute key to taking down the Clippers, is limiting the wings. Two of the top six forwards in the NBA exist on the same team in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and they are the biggest weapons of all.
Let’s start with Paul George first. The man with one of the corniest nicknames in the league (I mean c’mon, PG-13? Really) has been nowhere near a joke since the season has resumed, George has gone a blistering 19/34 from the field, including 14/22 from three-point range. That…that is insane.
Having fully recovered from his shoulder injuries that dated back to last season, George is locked and loaded from distance, and with his ability to slither around screens and get his shot off (it only takes him a second to get it out of his hands) Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and other will have to stay attached at the hip while also working their hardest to avoid George from breaking them down off the dribble and getting to the rim.
Now, about that Kawhi guy….
Kawhi has been his normal, quietly devasting self, averaging 26 points, seven rebounds, and five assists per game, including season resumption stats of 26-4.5.-4.5 on 40/50/87 shooting splits with terminator levels of efficiency. Leonard gets to his spots whenever he wants with a combination of his strength and direct dribbling, and when he is in the mid-range, it is almost automatic. His laugh maybe a funny one, but his game isn’t funny in the slightest.
Bridges and Johnson look to get the majority of the defensive possessions on these two, but it will take a complete team effort to “clip” the Clipper wings. They are easily the lynchpins of Los Angeles’ success, and if the Phoenix Suns want to walk away winners in this one they will have to do all they can to at least mitigate Leonard and George’s production on the floor.