The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers are waiting for Game 1 of their Western Conference showdown in the NBA playoffs. With a full week since their last game, both the Clippers and Suns are using the time to strategically prepare for a potentially grueling series.
One of the top orders of business for Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is slowing down Suns superstar Kevin Durant. A 13-time All-Star and 4-time scoring champion, Durant has become one of the most difficult players to stop for opposing teams. Speaking to Clippers beat writer Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints, Lue was asked about trying to deal with Durant, especially in small-ball lineups with KD at the 5. That’s when Lue praised Durant, expressing that KD just being on the floor “is trouble.”
Clippers Look to Slow Down Suns Star Kevin Durant
Throughout the week of preparation, both the Clippers and Suns players have noted the importance of slowing down the oppositions superstars. The Clippers are expecting to be without superstar Paul George for the beginning of the series. George has been sidelined since March 21 after suffering a hyperextended knee in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That means that the Suns will be focusing on slowing down Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard. In George’s absence, Leonard has started to play some of his best basketball of the 2022-23 season. In his last ten games, Leonard has averaged 24.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 51.2% from the field. Suns forward Kevin Durant praised Leonard this week, saying that Kawhi “ups the level of everybody around him.”
But the Clippers roster understands that slowing down Durant and the Suns will be a daunting task. In a clip shared by Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints, Clippers guard Terance Mann spoke of the challenges of defending the Suns trio, including Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Durant.
“I mean they have Kevin Durant,” Mann Said. “That’s just really it. They have Kevin Durant. So, it’s not just any trio. You got one of the best scorers of all time out there that you got to worry about now…It’s almost a completely different team because he’s out there.”
The Clippers and Suns faced each other four times during the 2022-23 regular season, with both teams picking up a pair of wins. The most recent game came on April, 9 which saw the Clippers pick up a 119-114 win to close out the season. The only problem for the Clippers is that Durant and the Suns starters didn’t play in that game. Sunday’s showdown will be the first time in which the Clippers will go up against a full Suns starting lineup, including Durant.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard Comments on Facing Suns’ Kevin Durant
Heading into Game 1 of their playoff series, all eyes are focused on the potential matchup involving Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. Both superstars are considered to be two of the top forwards in the league.
Both Leonard and Durant have had success throughout their illustrious careers when it comes to the postseason. They both have won two NBA championships, as well as each earning two Finals MVP awards. The Clippers will head into the series as an underdog. According to FanDuel, Los Angeles is +385 to win the series against the Suns.
If the Clippers are to have a shot at upsetting the Suns, it’s going to have to be a team effort. Leonard spoke to Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints, stating that his teammates are “gonna have to take the challenge” when it comes to facing Durant.
“He’s a great player. These are the fun parts of it, just going out there and competing against a guy like him that’s been doing it year after year. Everybody’s gonna have to take the challenge. Not just me, it is a team sport.”