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Basketball

WCF Preview : Suns vs Clippers

I thought I had another day to write this up! I didn’t realise the game is less than 12 hours away! Yikes! I need a vacation.

This whole season has been wild and incredibly hard to predict. The playoffs have been no different. I’m glad I decided to stop gambling on the games until next year.

Nonetheless, let’s have a look at the upcoming Western Conference Finals and see if we can predict a winner!

The regular season went the way of the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 2-1. I’m not really taking too much away from that though. The regular season feels like a lifetime ago. Let’s talk about what I am interested in.

Chris Paul

As we all know, Chris Paul was recently placed into the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Details are scarce, so we don’t know if it is due to contact tracing or if Paul has returned a positive test for COVID-19.

We do know that Chris Paul has officially been ruled out of Game 1. He is listed as day-to-day and that is all the information we have. By my count, CP3 has been in the protocols for about 5 days now. That’s not good for the Suns.

Chris Paul is pivotal to this team, not only on the court, but off of it as well. His knowledge is just as important as his basketball skills. This is a young Suns team and they need to stay focussed mentally, especially after such a long break between series. I’m not saying that they aren’t focussed, but having CP3 around would definitely make me feel better.

With the protocol rules, CP3 can not physically be with the team or players in anyway at all. The longer he is away from the team, the less I like their chances.

Kawhi Leonard

Speaking of missing pivotal pieces, the Clippers are missing a pretty big key to their success as well. Leonard suffered a knee injury in Game 4 of their second round series against the Utah Jazz.

We don’t really know the extent of his injury. After the game, Leonard said that he was fine and good to go. He has missed two games since then and is currently listed out for Game 1.

It has been reported that it is an ACL injury, but that is yet to be confirmed. It could be a sprain. Heck, it could be a fracture. We just don’t know. I suspect that L.A. don’t know either and more testing is required. Kawhi has always been one to err on the side of caution, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was done for the remainder of the playoffs.

With that being said, we continue to see Joel Embiid play with a meniscal injury in his knee, so who knows what will happen?

The good news for the Clippers is that they have not lost since Leonard went out injured. They won games 4,5 and 6 to close out the series against Utah, including a very impressive comeback in Game 6.

Paul George seems to have finally found some good form and the Clippers will need that to continue. It’s hard to say who else will step up to take on Leonard’s role, but the Clippers don’t need to panic. Players like Mann and Jackson have proved they are capable of stepping up. They will just have to hope George stays hot and do the rest by committee.

The classic ‘Rest vs Rust’ argument

It was a gruelling 7 game first round series for L.A., closely followed by a 6 game series in round 2. They played their last game yesterday, in Los Angeles and now have to hit the road to head to Phoenix.

Meanwhile, the Suns handled the Lakers in a tough 6 game series in the opening round and breezed past the Nuggets in a sweep last round. It will be a week between games for the Suns, who have been at home, resting and preparing. Not to mention they have youth on their side!

Which situation would you rather? Adversity builds character as they say and the Clippers have their fair share of that. They’ve proven that they can play well when their backs are against the wall. They are coming in red hot, off of 4 straight wins.

The Suns are even hotter though, coming off of 7 straight victories, 3 of which were against the most recent champions. The Suns are in fine form and well rested. My only worry is, is it too much rest? Time will tell.

Prediction

My heart is with the Suns and I wish my head could confidently follow that tip. The truth is, I just don’t know. The lack of Chris Paul really worries me. Then again, the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble last year and that was before Chris Paul was on the roster. If Booker and Ayton can dominate and the other guys can play consistently, the sky is the limit for this squad.

For the Clippers, they really need this one. Drama and controversy follow wherever this squad goes. They’ve finally brought themselves a bit of silence and quieted some of the noise. PG13 is playing well and the team is in good form. Can they continue that form?

They seem to always get behind a lot in games and series. I don’t think the Suns will let them back in from any deficits. The Clippers need to figure out how to come out aggressively. They can’t wait until their backs are against the wall, because they already are.

I’m going with the Suns in 6.

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