Phoenix Suns: A fans guide for Jazz-Clippers matchup

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

There’s little doubt the majority of Phoenix Suns fans – understanding the Chris Paul COVID situation – are hoping for a Game 7 in the Utah Jazz-Los Angeles Clippers series.

The Phoenix Suns would greatly benefit from a Utah Jazz victory in Friday night’s Game 6 at Staples Center in L.A. against the Clippers — but which team do Phoenix fans want to play next?

First off, a Game 7 in that Clippers-Jazz series would afford Paul an extra two days’ worth of recovery time — and Paul’s presence or absence for a game or two could swing the series.

The Suns, who took out the Los Angeles Lakers and then swept the Denver Nuggets will begin their Western Conference finals series either Sunday or Tuesday.

Both the Jazz and Clippers are formidable but flawed, so which opponent best represents Phoenix’s chances to reach its first NBA Finals since 1993?

The ESPN BPI projects the Jazz with a 14.7 percent chance to win the title; the Clippers at 13.6 percent. The index points to a Brooklyn Nets (26+ percent) meeting up with the Suns (18.7 percent) in the 2021 Finals.

So which path is preferable, the home court vs. L.A. or a showdown with the Jazz, who own the NBA’s best regular-season record?

The case for “We want L.A.” for Phoenix Suns fans

The Clippers are an injured animal, and, although the cliché says injured animals are dangerous, Kawhi Leonard’s absence would make these Clippers pretty domesticated.

In these playoffs, Leonard has been stellar – shooting 57 percent and averaging 30.4 points per game. While Leonard’s return is unclear, L.A. could be without him for the remainder of the playoffs if some reports are true.

The L.A. hopes ride on Paul George for at least Friday’s game, which Leonard, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, will miss. The snickering about “Playoff P” has been largely silenced — especially after George willed the Clippers past the Jazz in Game 5 with 37 points and 16 rebounds.

He’ll need to carry a huge part of the load Friday night, too, but the All-Star is in a groove right now. He’s at 25.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and more than five assists per game in the 2021 playoffs.

If Suns fans could be guaranteed that Leonard will miss the conference finals, they may lean toward the Clippers — even if that means beginning the series on Sunday without Chris Paul.

The case for “We want Utah” for Phoenix Suns fans

The Jazz are a prolific offensive machine, putting up more than 116 points per game during the playoffs. They also boast the ultimate rim protector, Rudy Gobert, but amid their flurry of 3-pointers comes an opportunity for the Suns.

With Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovich, the Jazz have four of the NBA playoffs’ top nine in made 3s.

Here’s the good news for Suns fans: While Phoenix ranks only 10th of the 16 playoff teams in trying to stop points in the paint, it’s No. 2 in defending the 3, holding opponents to 32.1 percent from beyond the arc.

And there’s more. The “injured animal” aspect includes the shaky health of Conley, who has missed the entire Clippers series entering Friday.

Mitchell, too, has been dealing with injury. He will need a major effort in L.A. — similar to what will be demanded of Paul George — to push the series to a seventh game.

Utah will try to shake the “losing Game 5” stat: Of the 83 NBA postseason series — all time — those that have been tied at 2 have seen the Game 5 winner advance 149 times. The Game 5 loser, in this case the Jazz, have won only 34 such series.

So which team do you want?