Suns vs. Clippers NBA Playoffs Game 3 Preview and Best Bet

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns and Mikal Bridges #25 celebrate. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns and Mikal Bridges #25 celebrate. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP


The L.A. Clippers are in trouble, but they might be the smart NBA pick for Thursday’s Game 3 matchup with the Phoenix Suns.


Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Thursday, June 24, 2021 – 9:00PM EDT at Staples Center


Everybody’s talking about that alley-oop. The Phoenix Suns were up against it Tuesday night, down 103-102 to the Los Angeles Clippers with less than a second on the clock. In-bounding from the left corner by the Clippers baseline, Jae Crowder found Deandre Ayton with the perfect lob, Ayton crammed it in, and here we are with the Suns up 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals.

The Clippers have been here before. They were down 2-0 to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round; they were down 2-0 to the Utah Jazz in the second. But the Clippers fought back to take both series, and really, all these games have been virtual coin flips between well-matched teams. The Clippers cashed in as 4.5-point road dogs on the NBA odds board for Game 2 of this series. Maybe they’re still the right choice for Game 3, after opening as 1-point home dogs at Unibet.

Wounded Knee

There’s one problem, though: Kawhi Leonard isn’t playing. Not that we know of, at least. The Clippers aren’t saying much, but the buzz in L.A. is that Leonard may have injured his ACL during their Game 4 win over the Jazz. Our trusted team of online sportsbooks didn’t wait to post their NBA lines, so chances are Leonard won’t be suiting up Thursday night. In theory, Leonard’s absence gives the Clippers some betting value. The public tends to overreact when star players get hurt; they’ll dump too much money on the other team, leaving the sharper set with the opportunity to take the short-handed side at a bargain price. The Clippers are 3-1 ATS since Leonard went down. They were almost 4-0 ATS, having lost 120-114 to Phoenix as 4-point road dogs in the opener.

Stay Healthy

That’s all well and good, but four games is a small sample size, and the Clippers ultimately took advantage of Mike Conley’s absence to beat the Jazz in six – just as I suspected heading into Game 2 of that series. In this case, it’s Chris Paul who’s missing for the Suns, but as I write this, the rumor mill says team officials are “hopeful” he’ll clear the league’s COVID-19 protocols in time to play Game 3. That possibility cuts into whatever profit margin you might find with the Clippers sans Leonard. The total is another matter. Tuesday’s game slid well below the 222.5-point total, and the betting market has responded; SBK has a total of 218 on their board at press time. That figures to be a bargain price for the Over whether Paul (still a quality two-way guard at age 36) plays or not – or Leonard, for that matter. The Suns are also likely to shoot better than 6-for-26 (23.1 percent) from downtown like they did in Game 2. Might as well take advantage while the spotlight is still on Ayton’s dunk.


NBA Pick: Over 218 (-111) at SBK