What: Game 2, Round 1, Western Conference, 2023 Playoffs
When: 7 p.m. AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, TNT
Listen: 98.7 FM
DraftKings Betting line: Suns are -7.5 against the spread and are -320 to win outright.
Whenever your team loses in the playoffs, it can feel like a race to the next game just to wash away the sins of the past. This is especially true when dealing with abnormal performances like the Suns had in their game one loss to the Clippers.
Between rough showings from the stars as well as abhorrent at best showings from the “others,” game 2 is bound to look plenty different from game 1. One thing that may not change? Torrey Craig playing a big role.
The forward scored a playoff career-high 22 points in game 1, and he seems awfully confident that it wasn’t a fluke, at risk of giving the Clippers additional “bulletin board material”:
Torrey Craig on whether he saw a playoff career-high 22 points coming in Game 1: “I mean, if Zubac was gonna be guarding me, yeah.” pic.twitter.com/Is0kQ0Fz7Z— hoops bot (@hoops_bot) April 17, 2023
Josh Okogie started the final 25 regular season games for the Suns, but he saw just 6:37 of action in game 1. Based on the way Craig performed and is continuing to exude confidence, I don’t know that Monty Williams will go away from Craig in the starting role, but I do expect to see a little bit more of Okogie at the very least.
Williams has a few other adjustments to make to the rotation, paramount among them is ensuring no star is left out there alone. Devin Booker played about 3:30 as the only star on the floor and the Suns were outscored 12-1 in those minutes. That can’t happen again.
I’d also like to see Jock Landale fully take on the backup 5 mantle, at least when Williams insists on a true center being out there; Bismack Biyombo just doesn’t have the juice for this sort of matchup on either end. That doesn’t preclude Phoenix from slotting in Kevin Durant at the 5 in spurts, but in those situations, I’d like to see four shooters around him so that you’re properly weaponizing that strategy.
For the Suns, Cam Payne is questionable with lower back soreness, and a potential return for him could be key to easing the burden on the stars. Paul George is the only name on the Clippers’ side, expected out for the entirety of the series.
Uniform matchup (per NBA LockerVision):
Keys to a Suns win:
- Get back to your bread and butter offensively, namely more Spain pick-and-roll actions and less of Kevin Durant standing around in the corner
- More activity from Deandre Ayton, especially on the glass and defensive end
- Breakout game from any bench member(s)
Keys to a Clippers win:
- More offensive production from Batum and Bones Hyland after they were both below half of their scoring averages in game 1
- Flow disruption from Terance Mann against Phoenix ballhandlers like Paul and Booker
- A more selective shot profile from Westbrook after shooting 3-19 in game 1 while still being key to their victory
The most comforting thing I could do right now is say “I trust in this team to bounce back like they’re known to” and predict a big win, but I’d be happy with getting this series to 1-1 any way they can, because teams down 0-2 lose the series 92% of the time.
I’m predicting the Suns win 107-99 and even things up.