Clippers vs. Suns NBA Playoffs Game 1 Picks: No Kawhi, No Trouble

Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers hugs Terance Mann #14. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP
Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers hugs Terance Mann #14. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP

The Clippers and Suns will likely be without their best players when they clash in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday. Here’s a complete preview, including updated betting odds and NBA picks.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns

Sunday, June 20, 2021 – 3:30 PM EDT at Phoenix Suns Arena

The Suns opened as 4-point favorites at Unibet and over at FiveThirtyEight, they have the Suns at -3. This leaves a 1-point gap between the projections and the actual NBA odds. We need at least two points between the projections and the lines before we lay any serious wood. Here we are not getting enough.

FiveThirtyEight gives the Suns a 62 percent chance to win. The equivalent moneyline is -163. For support, we turn to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin’s projections; he has the Suns at -1.17 using his Rating numbers, and at -1.13 using his eigenvector analysis. Is there some room to grab potential betting value with the Clippers +5 at SBK?

Next Mann Up

Kawhi Leonard injured his knee in Game 4 of the second round series against the Jazz and some fear that he is dealing with an ACL injury. Leonard’s status against the Suns is questionable and Chris Paul has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and is out indefinitely. Leonard and Paul were having playoffs for the ages! Who will step up to replace each star? Kawhi’s unfortunate injury opened the door for Terance Mann’s coming out party while we haven’t seen the Suns without CP3 yet!

Mann and the Clippers erased a 25-point deficit to reach the Western Conference Finals after beating the Jazz 131-119 in Game 6 on Friday while the Suns swept the Nuggets and haven’t played since last Sunday.

With Kawhi out, the Clippers put the offense in Paul George’s hands and they’re headed to the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever. Terance Mann, Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum all shined as a direct result of the attention George drew as the lead offensive weapon. The Utah defense suffocated PG-13 always found the open man. George is such a natural playmaker. He kept the dribble alive, had great vision and awareness plus timing. Finding shooters open when he needs to.

Mann benefitted from this and finished with a career-high 39 points on 15 of 21 shooting and 7 of 10 from beyond the arc on Friday, Paul George had 28 points, seven assists and three steals and Reggie Jackson added 27 points, 10 assists and three steals.

The Suns Look Unstoppable

Last Sunday Chris Paul led the Suns as they finished off a second-round sweep of the Nuggets with a 125-118 win. CP3 had a season-high 37 points on 14 of 19 shooting, including 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and he didn’t make, or even take, a single 3-pointer. The Suns haven’t displayed any weakness. They’re a deep, versatile team. Deandre Ayton has elevated his play, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson are two-way threats, Cameron Payne turned around his career admirably and is now one of the best reserve players in the league, Jae Crowder sparks the entire team and is a great veteran leader and head coach Monty Williams has a unique connection with his players and is one of the smartest at his position. And last but certainly not least is Devin Booker, who is proving to be a superstar.

After scoring 47 points in Game 6 against the Lakers, Booker put 34 on the Nuggets on Sunday in the second closeout game of his career. Booker’s style is advanced, polished, smooth and calm. He has a supreme skillset and he’s a legit three-level scorer with a great feel for taking a game over. The Suns will be well-rested but the Clippers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall, 4-0 ATS in their last four games after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game and 4-0 ATS in their last four games after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game. I can’t go against the Clippers right now, they might not win the game but they will at least put up a fight and I like the number I’m getting.

NBA Pick: Clippers +5 (-109) at SBK

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