clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Suns-Clippers Game 3 Preview: Making the adjustment to the adjustment

What Monty Williams does will echo in eternity. It’s very Gladiator-ish.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (1-1) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (1-1)

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Arena, Los Angeles, California

Watch: Bally Sports AZ, NBATV

Listen: 98.7 FM

The series shifts to the City of Angels on Thursday night as the Phoenix Suns look to take a 2-1 series edge against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference First Round. Los Angeles stole home court advantage by winning Game 1, 115-110, but the Suns responded with a 14-point victory in Game 2.

As the playoff series continues, especially the four vs. five seed matchup, the see-saw back and forth and competitiveness is at a high level. This isn’t a one versus eight seed walk in the park. This is an evenly matched battle between two two-time NBA Finals MVP’s in Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. There are multiple All-NBA and former MVPs sprinkled on both rosters.

This is playoff basketball. The highs are high, the lows are frustrating.

Game 3 can be a turning point for the winner, as the victor vastly increases their odds to win the series. Phoenix, who entered the postseason as the odds on favorite to win the Western Conference, will have to make the necessary adjustments to live up to the hype. Adjustments haven’t been the strong suit for head coach Monty Williams. Yet.

Starting Lineups



Cameron Payne (back) is QUESTIONABLE

Los Angeles:

  • Paul George (knee) is OUT

Uniform Matchup

What to Watch For

Typically in a seven-game series teams spend the first two games feeling each other out. They’re testing the waters to see what opposing defenses are trying to take away. Conversely, opposing offenses are poking and prodding the defense in an effort to identify the weaknesses.

We witnessed plenty of both in the first two games. The Clippers’ Ivica Zubac and Mason Plumlee, due to size and lack of lateral quickness, are players that Phoenix is attempting to target as they navigate their offense, especially in high leverage moments.

The Clippers strategy has been, as many teams have this season against Phoenix, to attack the cylinder. They know that the Suns cannot stop themselves from hand checking, which creates free throw opportunities as you drive to the rim.

We will watch to see what each head coach attempts to adjust with his team. Will Ty Lue play Nicolas Batum at the five in an effort to negate the Suns’ hunting their centers in the pick and roll? Will Monty Williams tell his team to keep their hands out of the cookie jar? To beat the Clippers to their spots and try to draw charges rather than allow them to fly by and slap at the ball?

Keys to a Suns Win

Controlling the glass is vital for Phoenix, as is attempting the three-ball.

The tide began to turn in the second quarter of Game 2 when Phoenix began securing rebounds consistently. It is the offensive rebounding and the second chance points that have hurt the Suns thus far in the series. The final minute of game one proves this point. Through the first five quarters of the series, the Clippers outscored Phoenix 21-10 in second-chance points and out-offensive rebounded them 21-7.

The final three quarters? The teams tied in both second-chance points (12-12) and offensive rebounds (6-6).

Entering the Series, the Clippers were 11th in the NBA in offensive rebounding. Thus far in the playoffs, they are fourth. This needs to change. And it’s a tough adjustment. It is hard to judge the long rebounds that come off of the three-pointers that the Clippers like to shoot. But team rebounding needs to be at the forefront for Phoenix. Second-chance points must be negated.

Phoenix is last in the NBA during the postseason in three-point attempts. They are taking 21.5 per game, which is less than half of the attempts the Bucks and Warriors are taking (45 3PA each). The Clippers are forcing the Suns off of the three-point line and into the mid-range, which Phoenix does not mind.

If Phoenix can increase their volume while maintaining their fifth-best three-point shooting (37.2%), this will create chaos that the Clippers will have a hard time trying to negate.


Adjustments. Rotations. Landry Shamet.

There are plenty of questions that lie before Monty Williams, as he coaches one of the greatest starting fives in the history of the Suns franchise. While it isn’t a “must win” game for the Suns, a loss makes their journey that much tougher. Phoenix defeated the New Orleans Pelicans last season in the First Round in six games, and they had to use a lot of energy to do so.

The Clippers have a much more talented roster, even though they will once again be without Paul George. Nothing against Willie Green, but the Clippers are better coached as well. There will be no lay down in them. There will be a fight. Monty Williams needs to have this team ready for the punch that is sure to come.

An early barrage of Clippers aggression will occur in the early minutes, but the firestarter that Eric Gordon has been will be negated and, in the house that Kobe built, Devin Booker will once again arise to the occasion. He is averaging 32 points and 6 assists in the series, and Ty Lue is sure to attempt to blitz him. The result?

45 point KD game incoming.

Suns 126, Clippers 118

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube:

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun