The Phoenix Suns are set to take on the Los Angeles Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs. In a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Clippers are expected to be without superstar forward Paul George for at least the beginning of that series.
George has been sidelined since March 21 after hyperextending his knee during a Clippers loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. While the Clippers are hoping to get George back as soon as possible, Charania expressed that the team could be without their superstar for the opening round. Appearing on FanDuel TV, Charania stated the Clippers’ mindset is that they need to get past the Suns to get George back in the lineup.
“You’re down arguably your best player. The Clippers are going into this series with the mindset that they’re going to need win this series, get past this series, to get him back into the lineup,” Charania said. “They’re going to have to get out of the series without him if they want a chance potentially to get him back.”
If George can return at some point in the first round, it would present another dangerous weapon for the Suns to have to deal with. George was having a strong season for the Clippers this year, averaging 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. The eight-time All-Star was shooting 45.7% from the field and 37.1% from three-point range during the 2022-23 season.
Phoenix Suns Look Ahead to Opening Round Playoff Matchup with Clippers
Both the Suns and Clippers have started to generate some momentum when it comes to preparing for the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers ended their season with three-straight wins. Phoenix posted an impressive 7-3 record over their last ten games. Now, both teams will attempt to stay fresh as the await the results of the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.
The Play-In Tournament will begin Tuesday, April 11 and conclude Friday, April 14. The means that the Suns won’t play their next game for a week, as Game 1 of the series against the Clippers is set for Sunday, April 16.
It will present some challenges for Phoenix, as they will need to remain focused with almost a week off in between games. While speaking to the media after Phoenix’s loss to the Clippers on April 9, head coach Monty Williams was asked about the additional time off. In a clip shared by Duane Rankin of AZCentral.com, Williams said that the team has been looking ahead in order to prepare for the additional downtime.
“I just think having a plan in place is something that we’ve had. You know, weight room, training room and on the floor. We’ve been looking at this period of time for awhile and so, we have a plan. You can adjust a plan if you need to.”
Suns Look to Maintain Momentum Against Clippers
Phoenix was one of the most impressive teams in the league to end the 2022-23 regular season. They won seven of their last ten games, which included a seven-game winning streak. Although the Suns lost their last two games of the season, Phoenix had rested their starters with their eyes set on the playoffs.
One of the most promising developments for the Suns was the play of the team with superstar Kevin Durant in the lineup. In his last five games, Durant has averaged 25.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. During that same stretch, Durant has shot 51.2% from the field and 53.6% from three-point range.
Phoenix posted a perfect 5-0 record since Durant’s return from a previous ankle injury suffered on March 8. In those five games, the Suns have won by an average of 9.8 points per game. Phoenix will hope that the limited sample was enough time to develop chemistry heading into the playoffs. Even against a shorthanded Clippers team, the Suns will have to be at their best, especially after a week off from gameplay.
The Suns will have to find a way to slowdown Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard as well. Leonard has stepped up for the Clippers with Paul George sidelined. In his last eight games, the five-time All-Star is averaging 24.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 52.2% from the field and 42.2% from three-point range.