As the Phoenix Suns enter Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, they should consider the game an opportunity to make a closeout statement.
Coming into the playoffs, fans here in the valley may have considered the Suns’ favorites to come out of the West, but we know that is not what the supercomputers thought. Then in the first two games against the Clippers, the Suns looked anything but a title contender. However, two victories against a depleted team in LA have Phoenix positioned to advance, and it is time for the Suns to do that and make a statement.
Clippers will not be the same at Footprint Center
Without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, or 19,000 fans at Crypto.com Center behind them, Los Angeles will be hard-pressed to put up the same courageous but undermanned fight they did at home. While Russell Westbrook and Normal Powell have games likely to travel, the rest of the role players will not necessarily have the same effectiveness they did at home.
Of course, the Clippers have nothing to lose, and we know Tyronn Lue is an excellent tactician on the sidelines, but we also know the current Clippers squad has no answer for Devin Booker, and he will be playing at home.
Suns with a chance to make a statement
Devin Booker, who was leading the playoffs in scoring before Jimmy Butler went off for 56 points, will likely want that scoring crown back; and with no one capable of slowing him down for LA, we should expect a big game from Booker.
Likewise, Kevin Durant may be averaging the quietest 28 points per game we have ever seen. Despite scoring 31 points in the last game, I don’t believe any Suns fan, or even KD himself, would say he has busted out yet. The Durant we all saw before his pre-game ankle injury has not yet fully emerged, but we could see it tonight with the next round calling.
What we want to see from Durant and Booker both is that killer instinct, where they have an opponent down on the mat and must go for the win. Thus, with a wounded team at home between themselves and the second round, we should expect the best from Booker, Durant, and Phoenix in a Game 5 statement win.
While the Suns have plenty of other players who will hopefully contribute to a closeout win at home – Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, dare I say Cameron Payne – it will be Booker and Durant who lead the way as the Suns make a statement of intent to the rest of the NBA.