Ever since the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off the seismic trade for Paul George in the 2019 offseason, which paired him with free-agent addition Kawhi Leonard, expectations have been high for the second team in Southern California. Yet a .500 postseason record through the last five years illustrates how this team, when healthy, has yet to get over the hump that is the Western Conference finals.
Los Angeles last made the conference finals back in 2021, falling to the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in a series where Leonard was lost to a knee injury. Coincidentally, the Clippers embark on their next postseason run against the Suns in a battle between the West’s No. 4 and 5 seeds.
Clippers playoff history
Last series win: 2020-21 Western Conference Semifinals (4-2) versus Utah Jazz
Last NBA title: N/A
Postseason record in last five years: 19-19
Los Angeles split the regular-season series with the Suns 2-2 this year, including a win in Sunday’s finale in which Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton did not suit up for Phoenix. With all the aforementioned names back in the fold for this round one series, the storyline then turns to who will step up as the Clippers’ number two option.
Kawhi Leonard (23.8 PPG) will shoulder the primary scoring load for Los Angeles, but the absence of their second-leading scorer in Paul George (23.8 PPG) begs the question of whether the Clippers will have enough offensively to match the Suns. The star forward is currently sidelined with a knee sprain that is expected to hold him out for at least the start of the NBA Playoffs.
Apart from the scoring duties for Los Angeles, a big question mark lies in how the Clippers hope to defend the Suns’ plethora of starting talent. The Clippers’ 12th-ranked defense (113.1 PPG allowed) will likely put Leonard on Durant, with some type of combination of Norman Powell and Bones Hyland on Booker. Still, Paul and Ayton boast an ample amount of playoff experience, including a 2021 NBA Finals appearance, that will make this matchup a tough draw for the Clippers nonetheless.