Every time the Phoenix Suns are in the playoffs they get a break because some key player on the opposing team is out due to an injury.
Game 3 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers was no different than the past, this time the Clippers are down both of their star players Paul George (Knee was out) and Kwai Leonard (sprained Knee).
The Suns got the close 129-124 win on the heroics of their own star Devin Booker with a spectacular 45-point 7 rebound performance, playing off another star (Kevin Durant) being double-teamed the entire game.
Phoenix takes a 2-1 lead in the series as the status of the Clippers stars is up in the air for the start of game 4 in Los Angeles.
After the great performance, Durant said of his teammate Booker:
The Suns held off a valued effort from the shorthanded Clippers led by Norman Powell (42) and Russell Westbrook (30), and it seemed they filled the scoring void of Leonard but could not fill the void of all the other things that Leonard does.
Somehow both Powell and Westbrook were free to do almost whatever they wanted on the offensive floor, and on the defensive end they had to work even harder to stop Booker and Durant, and the task almost even itself out as Powell was a defensive liability for the Clippers.
Head Coach Ty Lue is a mastermind at adjusting to what he has to stop the opposing team, the Clippers played with hustle and grit the entire night getting contributions from 12 guys to try and pull off the upset.
But the Suns were steady, behind the heroics of Booker, and finally got a key stint from someone else off the bench in Damion Lee.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how the rest of this series plays out.
Will we see Leonard in a desperate situation try to play on a bad wheel, and could we also get an appearance from Paul George at some point in this series.
If the Clippers can extend this series longer then the chance of seeing both of their stars back on the floor gets closer
Although, if they both return less than 100 percent, that can also hurt their chances of advancing to the next round.
As for the Suns, the adding of Cam Payne off its bench in game 4 can be the component that puts this series in history as a win for the Suns going away, as Payne would open up s much from the guys on the bench and preserve the stars along the way.
It looks like the formula for the Suns is to play Booker, Durant, Ayton, and Paul for major minutes with very minimal rest because the bench has not been able to match the level the Clippers are playing at on the defensive end.
We saw Damson Lee get in the game for a long stretch and was effectively shooting the open three, but on the other end looked like he could not keep up with the speed and athleticism of the Clipper guards.
So with two wins away from closing out round one, the stars may have to carry the load, but Payne’s return could help alleviate that tiring strategy and probably prolong the guys that usually get injured about this time.
Chris Paul has been very active and alive at 37 years of age in these playoffs so far, but how long will he hold up if he has to play 35-plus minutes a night and be effective at the same time, that is a good question but so far it’s been answered with gritty performances from the future Hall of Fame guard.
Game 4 for the Clippers coaching staff will be a hard task, to figure out whether to slow down Devin Booker or continue to double on Kevin, either way, it can get out of control to handle and match their point totals.
How likely is it that the Clippers will get another great performance by Norman Powell if Leonard or George does not return, its probably not likely if Monty makes the correct adjustments, but anything can happen and game 4 for the Clippers will be the game that determines if they can extend this series to get back both of their star players.