After an emotional series closeout on Friday night at Staples Center, the LA Clippers will take a desert-jumper to Phoenix to begin the Western Conference Finals Sunday afternoon against the Phoenix Suns.
When: Sunday, June 20, 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
How to watch/listen: ABC
Opposing perspective: Bright Side of the Sun
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum
Suns: Mikel Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (lower back), Kawhi Leonard (right knee) — OUT
Suns: Chris Paul (health and safety protocols) — DOUBTFUL
The Clippers put together their second win since Kawhi Leonard went down with a knee sprain after Game 4 against the Utah Jazz and posted arguably the most important win in franchise history on Friday with a stellar comeback in the 2nd half. Terance Mann was the unlikely hero, with a Kawhi-esque 39 points, and Reggie Jackson once again proved to be the Clippers’ secret weapon as they dug out of a 25-point hole to take Game 6 and the series.
But they are entering another “rest vs. rust” scenario in the next series. The Suns will have had a full week of rest, which means it’s possible they could be a bit off to start Game 1. Or they could be in the ascendance with some proper rest, while the Clippers get barely 36 hours. Considering the Eastern Conference Finals haven’t even started yet, it doesn’t seem necessary to rush Game 1 of the WCF and risk more injuries due to fatigue.
But the schedule is what it is and here we are. Leonard remains out, and while the Clippers have not yet ruled him out for the season, I would consider any participation in the playoffs moving forward a happy surprise rather than an expectation.
However, Chris Paul seems likely to miss Game 1, and possibly future games, because he is currently in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, after reportedly testing positive for coronavirus during the week. The Suns point guard was stellar in the last round against the Denver Nuggets, which ended in a series sweep for Phoenix, and while the Suns are far from a one-man team, missing Paul may give the Clippers a boost on the road to open the series.
Let’s be real here: The Clippers have started each of their first two rounds terribly. They are playing on rather ridiculous short rest and may be a bit more worn out with the emotion from Friday’s win. But with the playoff field diminishing and the Clips remaining alive, their destiny is truly in their own hands. Hopefully that means they can get off to a good start to open this series against the Suns, and we’ll see what happens.