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WCF Game Preview: Paul set to return as Suns look to take commanding 3-0 series lead

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CP3 is returning for Game 3 and will look to put the finishing touches on his former team in his former building.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers — Game 3, Western Conference Finals (Suns lead 2-0)

When: Thursday, 6:00 PM

Where: Staples Center

Watch: ESPN, Youtube TV, Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

Betting Line: Phoenix -1.0


Coming off one of the most thrilling wins in franchise history, the Suns will look to avoid any sort of hangover from the “Valley Oop”. Who better to prevent that from happening than their very own All-NBA point guard, Chris Paul?

The Point God will make his return after passing the health and safety protocols Wednesday morning according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.

Phoenix will be coming off an emotional high led by the stellar play of Cameron Payne and Deandre Ayton in their 104-103 victory in Game 2. Dare I say... Chris Paul will have big shoes to fill? Payne posted 29 points, 9 assists, and 0 turnovers on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Deandre Ayton — the completer of the Valley Oop — had a brilliant performance as well, putting up 24 points (12/15 FG), 14 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal.

Given the Clippers’ track record of making series comebacks this postseason, it’s a series that is hardly over with plenty of work left to do. Phoenix can apply a “knockout” punch if they take a commanding 3-0 lead tonight, though you can expect the Clippers to be in all-out desperation mode.


Injury Report

PHX: Chris Paul (AVAILABLE), Abdel Nader (OUT).

LAC: Kawhi Leonard (OUT), Serge Ibaka (OUT).


Probable Starters

Phoenix:

Chris Paul — Devin Booker — Mikal Bridges — Jae Crowder — Deandre Ayton

Los Angeles:

Reggie Jackson — Patrick Beverley — Paul George — Marcus Morris — Ivica Zubac


Clippers Notes

Do not be surprised if the Clippers make changes to their starting lineup for a second straight game. Ty Lue has shown he will make whatever adjustments necessary to find the right formula for success.

“We called T-Lue Bill Belichick, all the adjustments he makes,” guard Reggie Jackson said.

It’s going to be that much tougher,” Paul George said about Chris Paul’s impending return.

Every time Phoenix pulled away in Game 2, Los Angeles had an answer. Now they have a home-court advantage on their side rather than playing against the rabid fans in Phoenix.


Suns Notes

Chris Paul should inject some additional life into a confident Suns squad riding a high right now as they enter Los Angeles. I wouldn’t expect him to play heavy minutes right off the bat, as it’s been over a week and a half since he last played a basketball game.

The guard rotation should be a lot less hectic with the return of CP3, as they will balance out the minutes in a more sustainable manner.


Keys to the game

Integrating Paul

Will there be any minutes restriction for Paul? With how well Cameron Payne is playing it would not shock me if Paul played under 30 minutes. Along with that, we could see some more 3-guard lineups in order to get Payne extra minutes.

The last game Paul played was Sunday, June 13th (11 days ago) so there may be some initial rust in the process of integrating him in the middle of a playoff series.

Mikal and Jae

Bridges and Crowder shot a combined 1-for-8 from three-point range in Game 2. Not only was their shot from long distance not falling, but they were mostly non-factors offensively combining for just 7 total points. That simply cannot happen again if they want to go up 3-0.

Book adjustments

First off... will we be getting a masked Book? It’s a possibility depending on how bad the nose is. His favorite player growing up with Rip Hamilton so it would only be fitting. Either way, the nose injury could be something that bothers Booker for the rest of the playoffs so it’s something to monitor.

In game 1 he torched the Clippers. In game 2 they adjusted and slowed him down. Expect Booker to make his own adjustments in game 3 and respond with a more calculated, efficient performance.


Prediction

Suns win 115-109.