Chris Paul is one game away from his first NBA Finals appearance, and Kawhi Leonard remains nowhere in sight ... too good to be true? Let’s break down Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Clippers have been tremendous with their backs against the wall this postseason, but the Suns have been equally, if not better, at not letting any series drag on and taking advantage of their opportunities to close. As soon as the Suns’ 3-1 series lead was mentioned to Chris Paul in his postgame interview following Game 4, he said he doesn’t want to talk about it. CP3 knows as well as anyone how important finishing this off in Game 5 is, and as Phoenix’s leader, he’ll have his guys ready.
This is going to be a rowdy home crowd for the Suns, giving them a lot of energy (Paul’s first-ever home game in the WCF) and making things tough on the Clips. Ivica Zubac, who has a double-double in three consecutive games, is now battling a knee injury heading into this one, which is a big deal. DeAndre Ayton has been a force in this series, and his impact should only grow if Zubac is out or limited.
I don’t mind laying the points in this one because I feel even a close game could get out of hand in the last 90 seconds, kind of like Game 3 on Sunday in the Eastern Conference Finals. With Trae Young hurting his foot, you could feel it was over and Khris Middleton finished them. Once the Suns start to pull away late in this one, the Clippers will give in. Paul won’t take his foot off the gas either, much like the Game 4 sweep in Denver.
Speaking of that clincher in Denver, Paul was masterful, finishing with 37 points. CP3 has been getting his assists and rebounds in the two games in Los Angeles but scored 33 total points on a combined 11-for-41 from the field (2-of-10 from deep). The time off might have caught up to him a little bit, but he nearly reached this total in Game 4, even with the dreadful shooting. At home, in a game that Paul should consider a must-win, with a couple of games to get his legs under him ... this should be a CP3 game. I expect Paul to be more aggressive to score, and really try to pile on if he can.
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