Despite missing an All-NBA player in Chris Paul, due to the league's 'health and safety protocols', the Suns won both games at home and carry their 2-0 series lead over the Clippers to Los Angeles.
The victory was Phoenix's ninth straight while the Clippers have won their last four at home. How will Game 3 turn out?
Below, find everything you need to know ahead of a pivotal Game 3.
Matchup: No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs No. 4 LA Clippers
Series: Suns lead 2-0
Where to watch
Date: Thursday, June 24
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET (6:30 a.m IST)
TV: ESPN, TSN (Canada), Star Sports (India)
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
What to watch:
The CP3 return
According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, Chris Paul has cleared the league's health and safety protocols and is set to return to the Suns' line-up in Game 3. Even the Suns officially upgraded Paul, from OUT in Games 1 and 2, to probable in Game 3.
Through two games, the Suns have won each in different ways. Game 1 was the Devin Booker show as he recorded a historic 40-point triple-double while in Game 2, Cameron Payne, Deandre Ayton and the supporting cast stepped up in the last-second victory.
So, adding an All-Star and All-NBA player in Chris Paul is sure to bolster the team's on and off the court. With Kawhi Leonard declared OUT for the Clippers in Game 3, the Suns are favoured, and rightfully so, to take care of business in Game 3 even if it's on the road.
Barring any rust that Paul would battle, this should be an easy comeback for both the All-Star and the Suns, given their synergy prior to his absence.
Further room for improvement
In the series so far, the Suns have received valuable contributions from their 'supporting cast' which has helped them outlast the Clippers despite being shorthanded. After two games, both decided by six points or fewer, there's a sense that the Suns can get even better.
Not only from CP3's return but also by clamping down on their defence, something they've in prior rounds. Through the first two series, they allowed an average of 100.8 points per game whereas, they have given up 108.5 in the first two games of this series.
In these playoffs, they are the second-best team by defensive rating while the Clippers rank ninth. So, while Phoenix does lead 2-0, there's certainly room for improvement for them to get clinical and dominate on both ends, something they did in the prior two rounds of the postseason.
- Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694), NBA India
Role players must step up
The Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard for Game 3 as he continues to rehab his injured right knee. He hasn't played since Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals against the Utah Jazz, putting pressure on Paul George to carry the offensive load in his absence.
George, who missed two key free throws late in Game 2, has been solid since Leonard went out of the lineup, averaging 31.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals across the past four games, but he'll need the supporting cast to impose themselves on their home floor.
Outside of Reggie Jackson, the Clippers' role players haven't been at their best, but back on their home floor, they'll need Marcus Morris, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac and Luke Kennard to step up.
Through the first two games of the series, the Clippers have shot the ball from long-range well (40.5 percent), averaging 16.5 triples per game, to the Suns' (32.8 percent, 9.5 makes), a key area the role players will need to continue to impact.
A familiar position
For the third straight series the Clippers find themselves trailing 2-0, and will lean on their impressive home form to get back in the series once again.
This series is far from over, given what we've seen the Clippers do in the postseason this year with their backs against the wall, but with Chris Paul returning to the lineup, things get a little bit trickier from here.
"It's going to be that much tougher," Paul George said regarding Paul's return.
The key difference is moving on from the heartbreak of Game 2 after going down in the final second, thanks to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk. They'll have no time to dwell on the result, with Game 3 the biggest test of their season so far.
- Benyam Kidane (BenyamKidane), NBA Australia
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