Phoenix Suns: 2 Adjustments the Clippers Will Make For Game 2

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

Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns absolutely torched the Los Angeles Clippers defense in Game 1 like they were playing on an outdoor court near the arena. It helped the Suns earn an important victory 120-114 even with the services of Chris Paul.

As expected, Booker was the star performer during the contest for Phoenix. What may be less expected though was this eerily-similar comparison to their 1993 Finals team.

What a coincidence! Like Barkley nearly 30 years prior, Booker has been completely unstoppable all season long. No matter what the Clippers did last, it was never enough.

If they continue to play Booker straight up, it’s an automatic two points. If they double-team him, he can pass the ball to elite finisher Deandre Ayton, or three above-average shooters in Jae Crowder, Cameron Johnson, and Mikal Bridges at all times.

The Clippers are in a no-win situation on defense. Without Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, they do not have the defensive personnel to slow down the Suns offense as a whole. LA should ultimately prioritize offense instead of defense for this series.

However, from what Clippers players said in Game 1’s postgame news conference, their priority seems to be making defensive adjustments (AKA stopping Booker). So what adjustments will the Clippers make to stop the unstoppable?

Phoenix Suns vs Clippers Adjustment #1: Double-team Devin Booker once he dribbles the ball

For whatever reason, the Clippers allowed Devin Booker to play one-on-one and never attempted to trap him off the pick-and-roll. I cannot fathom why Los Angeles never sent the nearest help defender to make him give up the ball once putting it on the floor.

Well, they did. It was just not fast enough.

The Clippers guards, who Booker cooked routinely in Game 1, gave some insight as to what they have in mind for Game 2.

Reggie Jackson, via

"“[Booker] played with the ball but he does a great job playing off the ball whether it be off ball screens, getting himself open, really, really good in the midrange,” Clippers point guard Reggie Jackson said of the new challenge of defending Booker. “The other two [Doncic and Mitchell], really [they are more] 3-ball and [getting] to the rim guys. They are all three-level scorers.“[But with Booker], it’s hard when you put so much pressure coming downhill and then he pulls up. He’s the complete package. We have to find a way to bottle him up.”"

Paul George, via

"“This is a different caliber team than the other two teams we faced,” George said of the Suns compared to the Mavericks and Jazz. “A little bit more guard play. And so we just have to figure out how to counter, which we will. We’ll figure out another game plan.”“As much as we wanted this one, I think this was a good feel-out game to see adjustments. We’ve been great adjusting, and you know, we’ve been great at playing better as the series goes on.”"

I would say Jackson’s comments about “bottling [Booker] up” are implying that they will double-team Booker as soon as he dribbles the ball this time around. The Clippers will most likely keep either of their centers (Demarcus Cousins or Ivica Zubac) in the paint to defend the roll to Ayton, but the nearest perimeter player will abandon their man to get the ball out of Booker’s hands.

This should give way to a 4-on-3 advantage for Phoenix. The Clippers are going to have to live with Bridges, Payne, and Crowder knocking down open three-pointers since they simply cannot live with Booker or Ayton scoring at will like they did in Game 1.

Speaking of Ayton…

Phoenix Suns vs Clippers Adjustment #2: Give Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus Cousins more minutes to get Deandre Ayton in foul trouble

The two-headed monster of DeMarcus Cousins and Ivica Zubac scored 20 points total in a combined 31 minutes of action. By comparison, Deandre Ayton scored 20 points in 37 minutes. So were Cousins and Zubac better than Ayton in Game 1?

Silly question!

Offensive efficiency is one of the most overrated metrics in basketball for this very reason! So what if Cousins and Zubac were more efficient than Ayton? He dominated them all game long!

It’s pretty clear nobody on the Clippers can stop Ayton when he is in rhythm. As seen here, Ayton is not just a finisher. He can be a playmaker as well.

Quietly forged over the course of their three seasons together in Phoenix, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton have developed a strong give-and-go chemistry on offense.

Check out this beauty!

Can the Clippers stop this play? No chance! Nor can Cousins or Zubac stop Ayton on defense. But on offense, both players can tag-team on Ayton to get him into foul trouble.

Here’s how: the Clippers will get Zubac and Cousins on the block early and often. With four perimeter players surrounding them, Ayton’s low post defense will be tested. Even through several devastating injuries, Cousins in particular can still get buckets.

That’s BBQ chicken, as former Suns great Shaquille O’Neal would say.

Another thing to consider: the refs. Cousins and Zubac can get a little chippy between the two of them. The officials will be pressured into a tight whistle once Cousins enters the game. The refs know Cousins and Zubac have 12 fouls to use against any Suns player who enters the paint.

Ultimately, the Suns need to run Cousins or Zubac off the court on offense to make this a potential non-issue. Ayton certainly has the potential to beat both men down the court with relative ease.


To recap, the adjustments are pretty straightforward. Clippers will double-team Devin Booker on defense and pound the ball inside on offense to get Deandre Ayton into foul trouble.

dark. Next. Making Devin Booker's Case For the Best Player Left in the Postseason

Is there anything else they plan to do in Game 2? Please leave a comment and let us know!