The Western Conference Finals have been a one-sided story through the first four games. Up three games to one, the Phoenix Suns could eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5. They were able to sweep their second-round opponents, the Denver Nuggets, and will try to finish this series in just five games. With the home court returning to Phoenix, the Suns are in good shape to move on to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.
Although the Suns had to do without Chris Paul for the first two games of the series, they won both of those games with help from Cam Payne, and Devin Booker’s first career triple-double. Booker has elevated his play this postseason and doesn’t look to be cooling off. With the return of Paul, the Suns also have their veteran leader and floor general to orchestrate the offense.
It can’t be said enough that Payne has been the X-Factor for the Suns this season, and has only elevated that play in the Playoffs. In Game 2, Payne had a career-high 29 points and also dished out 9 assists. Phoenix would win 104-103 and every point mattered. Especially Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk. The former Murray State Racer kept his composure down the stretch and made play after play to help secure the win. From China not long ago to the Western Conference Finals, that’s quite the trajectory.
Cam Payne will not be denied
29 points and counting pic.twitter.com/cy6z8Tw6MF
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) June 23, 2021
When Payne went down in Game 3, the Suns lost to the Clippers. Not a crazy coincidence if you ask me.
For the Clippers to avoid elimination the plan is simple, Paul George has to have an instant classic type game. Without Kawhi Leonard, who is still out due to a knee sprain, the Clippers need a big game from George. Perhaps Terance Mann is due for another 30 point game, maybe Reggie Jackson will be able to put up a big scoring night. Without a double-double from George with at least 30 points, I’m not sure the Clippers can beat the Suns. To PG’s credit, he has been great so far in the series, but just not enough.
In-Game 3 he had a double-double of 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists, helping to boost the Clippers’ efforts on fast breaks and preventing second chance opportunities for the Suns. In Game 4, in a four-point loss, George had 23, 16, and 6 but fouled out down the stretch. Fouling out is not an option in Game 5 while LA faces elimination.
The Suns and Clippers will faceoff in this potential elimination game tonight at 9:00 pm on ESPN.