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Belief: Clippers-Suns series to be decided by who makes best adjustments without Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul

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Belief: Clippers-Suns series to be decided by who makes best adjustments without Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul

, USA TODAY
Published 10: 44 p.m. ET June 20, 2021 | Up to date 10: 57 p.m. ET June 20, 2021

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PHOENIX — The chant grew louder at any time when. So did the confident tone.

Moments after the Phoenix Suns cemented a 120-114 victory towards the Los Angeles Clippers in Recreation 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the 16,583 followers  in the promote-out crowd streamed out to the sector concourse, repeating what has no longer too long previously become a catchphrase.

“Suns in four!!” the followers yelled in unison. “Suns in four!!”

That’s the same chant made by Suns fan Slash McKellar, who attended Recreation 1 after defending himself towards two rowdy Denver Nuggets followers in the last round.

Suns followers beget every factual to in actuality feel confident, as their team has won eight consecutive playoff games, the longest playoff winning disappear in team history. But they  might perchance perchance be overly optimistic in expressing hopes for a sweep towards the Clippers because  every teams beget been missing key players in Recreation 1. 

Suns guard Chris Paul  remained in the NBA’s properly being and safety protocols and Clippers ahead Kawhi Leonard used to be out for a third consecutive sport with an injured factual knee.

Both teams beget the roster depth, instructing smarts and collective resiliency to combat in the postseason trenches. The quiz is which team is better at handling their superstar’s absence.

“It’s no longer going to be gravy the whole design thru. It’s no longer going to be candy the whole design thru,” Booker stated. “Our job is to preserve watch over the controllables. Whatever the tell is, we beget got to preserve taking half in thru it and preserve taking half in laborious. That’s been the story of our team, and it’s been it for the whole season. Hang taking half in laborious no topic the conditions.”

The Suns fulfilled that without Paul. Booker posted a triple double with 40 aspects, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Suns center Deandre Ayton showcased his internal threat with 20 aspects and 9 rebounds. And the Suns had heaps of befriend from Mikal Bridges (14 aspects), Jae Crowder (13), Cam Johnson (12) and Cameron Payne (11).

It remains unclear how long the Suns will be without Paul. Suns coach Monty Williams listed him as “day-to-day” and supplied no clarity on when Paul can resume practicing. That makes his website iffy for Recreation 2 pondering he would need time to ramp up his workload.

The Suns, though, beget proven they might be able to adjust properly with or without him. The Lakers might perchance maybe moreover merely need won their first-round series towards Phoenix had LeBron James and Anthony Davis no longer nursed varied ailments. But for the length of that series, the Suns learned how to blueprint the best of either a totally healthy, a puny or an absent Paul.

“We’re repeatedly a confident community. We in actuality feel look after we beget got earned the factual to be right here. We now beget got even beget a big deal of admire for our opponent. And for those who beget gotten that great admire for an opponent, you better beget confidence,” Williams stated. “Our guys have not complained one time. At least no longer to me. They’ve correct long gone about their switch.”

So beget the Clippers.

Handiest 1½ days after placing off the Utah Jazz in Recreation 6 of their 2nd-round series, the Clippers regarded noticeably fatigued during Recreation 1. Clippers ahead Marcus Morris Sr. used to be facing some distress in his knees. And given the early afternoon open, the Clippers handiest had time to squeeze a lumber-thru at a resort ballroom on Saturday.

But even if the Clippers beget played 14 games in handiest 29 days, they serene competed. Paul George played 39 minutes, making him the NBA’s chief in postseason taking half in time (568 minutes) and had 34 aspects whereas capturing 10-for-26 from the discipline. Reggie Jackson serene produced despite his noticeable exhaustion (24 aspects). And DeMarcus Cousins posted 11 aspects and 4 rebounds after receiving surprising taking half in time.

“No excuses. We beget been drained taking half in every diversified day, nonetheless we beget got to play the cards that we’re dealt,” Jackson stated.  “I deem we’re constructed for it. We’re constructed for this team. We’re no longer going to blueprint excuses. We’re going to discover a technique.”

It looks likely that the Clippers can beget to continue to discover a technique without Leonard.

Even though coach Ty Lue has no longer dominated him out for Recreation 2, Leonard did no longer hover with the team to Phoenix. The Clippers sorely missed his scoring punch and perimeter defense.

“I search files from us to come by better because the series goes. We’ve been big at it,” George stated. “It’s nothing to dread over factual now. We’ll decide out what we need to attain better. The very best thing about it’s we search files from a long series. All they did used to be take one sport.”

Finally, the Clippers overcame 0-2 deficits to Dallas and Utah. All the procedure thru those series, the Clippers had extra success defending Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell as every sport developed. About a of that had to attain with those players’ distress disorders. But some also had to attain with Lue interchanging gigantic and exiguous lineups as properly as schemes.

No surprise Cousins many times stated, “We’ll adjust.”

The Suns beget carried out the same thing, though.

“Monty is a coach who is conscious of how to encounter adversity,” Ayton stated. “He makes us in actuality feel snug with switch. The things he does best is keep up a correspondence what we attain best. We stuck to that in the season and that’s what we’re doing now throughout the playoffs.”

Maybe that nuance does no longer sound horny to Suns followers rooting for one other sweep. But it completely’s safe to bellow that the rest of the series will become as charming as Recreation 1.

Apply USA TODAY NBA creator Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Register for USA TODAY’s varied subscription offers

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Belief: Clippers-Suns series to be decided by who makes best adjustments without Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul