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Suns vs. Clippers Series Odds & Betting Preview: NBA Playoffs Picks for Battle of Division Rivals

Suns vs. Clippers Series Odds & Betting Preview: NBA Playoffs Picks for Battle of Division Rivals article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns, Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Phoenix Suns are undefeated with Kevin Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers are without one half of their superstar duo, as Paul George is not expected to play in the first round. It’s title or bust for both teams. The Clippers have never been able to find a path to their best selves. The Suns kept finding themselves one guy short in the matchups they needed to win, so they went out and got the ultimate matchup breaker.

Will the Suns make quick work of a Clippers team that barely escaped mediocrity by season’s end? Or do the Clippers have an ace up their sleeve in a showdown filled with superstars? Let’s take a look at the series odds and betting preview for Suns vs. Clippers.

The Most Important Thing: Suns Pick-and-Roll Containment

The Suns’ stars are going to do their thing. Durant’s going to hit contested ISO shots and tough pull-ups off screens. Devin Booker is going to get into the short mid-range and hit jumpers or find open shooters off pick-and-roll. They’ll do their thing.

The way the Clippers hang in this series is with offense. They need to outpace the Suns from 3-point range and force them into tough rotation decisions.

The Suns want to stay big; they almost have to. They sacrificed positional versatility over the last few years and now rely on Deandre Ayton, Bismack Biyombo, and Jock Landale almost exclusively. Durant, for example, has played just four minutes without one of those three on the floor.

The problem with traditional bigs is that they require drop coverage in pick-and-roll (where the player defending the screener retreats to the rim), which leaves space for shooters. If you bring help, it opens shooters on the outside.

This is almost entirely what the Suns run. They have played drop coverage the vast majority of the time. The Clippers have the personnel to make them pay for this, and it’s vital to unlocking what the Clippers can do on offense. It’s going to require Leonard, Norman Powell, Terance Mann, and probably Bones Hyland to make pull-up shots to punish that coverage.

The Clippers have to put pressure on the Suns to get them out of their base coverage, which will force help and open up 3-point shooting.

With George, the Clippers might be able to go toe-to-toe with the Suns’ firepower. Without him, they have to get the Suns out of their comfort zone.

The Pendulum: Landry Shamet, Josh Okogie, and Torrey Craig

Basically, “the other guys.” I considered putting Chris Paul here, but I’m going to give the future Hall of Famer the benefit of the doubt.

Craig shot 40% from 3 this season, a career-high and five percentage points better than his career average. Shamet shot 38% and Okogie shot just 34%.

The Clippers will switch screens as much as they can but will also likely bring help to try and get the ball out of Booker and Durant’s hands. This means those other shooters have to be ready and knock down shots to keep the Clippers home. Phoenix is 17th in 3-point makes per 100 possessions since All-Star (so post-trade). Those are not shots they necessarily look for, but they’re important for not letting the Clippers sink into the paint.

The Clippers are likely to dare those shooters to hurt them because it’s better than the superstars doing their thing. If those players are confident and make a few, it breaks the Clippers’ plan and makes life easier for their mid-range monsters.

If not, that opens the door for the Clippers to cool off the Suns.

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The Mirage: The Kawhi-Durant Matchup

Leonard is not guarding Durant for the duration of games. He won’t even guard him for the majority of the series.

This is not 2014 when Leonard shadowed LeBron James. Leonard is an offensive hub and a high-usage superstar with a major leg injury on his chart.

The Clippers will conserve his energy by having him guard one of those players above. Leonard may switch onto Durant if he calls for such a screen but … why would Durant do that? Meanwhile, any time Leonard actually is guarding Durant, Durant will maneuver to get Leonard switched off.

These matchups are just never what we think they are, and the Clippers won’t lean into it. Would the Clippers be better off with Leonard going full force, guarding Durant every possession, and fighting through screens to prevent switches? Sure. But Leonard will wear down and the Clippers can’t afford that, especially without George.

The Bet: Over 5.5 games (BetMGM, -110)

The Clippers really do match up well here. The Suns are undefeated with Durant, but their schedule has not revealed this type of matchup. Phoenix will win, but the Clippers’ switching style, versatility, and shooting should give them a chance to get one of the first three and then likely one of Game 4 or 5 before the Suns close this in six.

If Paul George were available? I’d be looking at Clippers sides, but his absence looms too large for a Clippers team that needs him on both ends.

I will be looking to see if Terance Mann plays more of a role than I think he will. His numbers vs. the Suns were great and he’s just the type of player who can attack Phoenix’s weaknesses, but he has to get time, likely over Russell Westbrook, to have the opportunity.

I’ll also look for live bets for Nic Batum 3’s in-game if he’s in the rotation, and as always, I’ll be on Devin Booker over assists, as he’s been dynamite as a playmaker since Durant’s arrival.

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