3 Clippers bold predictions for Game 1 vs. Suns

The Los Angeles Clippers were able to avoid the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament and finish as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. They ended with a record of 44-38, and now prepare for the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs with a series against the Phoenix Suns. The No. 4 seed Suns finished 45-37, although they are much more dangerous than the typical No. 4 seed. Ever since adding Kevin Durant, the Suns have looked virtually impossible to stop with Durant in the lineup. In games that Durant has played in, the Suns are 8-0, including two wins agains the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets. Despite being just 1 seed below the Suns, the Clippers might be facing a juggernaut in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

On the Los Angeles side, the Clippers will be going into Game 1 without star Paul George. George might still make an appearance this series, but he has at least been ruled out for the first game or so. George went down with a knee injury March 21st, and is currently still in the recovery process. This will put all of the pressure on fellow star Kawhi Leonard, although he knows a thing or two about performing in the playoffs. Leonard already has two rings with two separate franchises, and will look to become just the  fifth player to have a ring with three teams. Before he can look ahead to the record books, Leonard and his Clippers teammates need to focus on Game 1. Here are three bold predictions for the Clippers in Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns.

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Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard is the game-high scorer

The most Kawhi Leonard has been talked about this season is when the discussion surrounding load management has been brought up. In terms of his play, Leonard has been his typical consistent self, but was not really considered amongst the best players in the league this season. With the Suns having stars like Durant and Devin Booker, and Leonard not having one of his best scoring seasons, the high-scorer would be expected to be on the Phoenix sideline. However, it will actually be Leonard after Game 1.

Over the last four games for Leonard, he has averaged 29.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists per contest. Leonard has kicked his game into another gear to prepare for the playoffs, and has started to show more urgency in getting his own buckets. This is huge for a Clippers team down George to start the series, as Leonard is ready to pick up the scoring slack starting in Game 1.

Leonard is no stranger to big playoff performances, averaging 30.5 points per game in his last season that ended with a championship, one with the Toronto Raptors. In his last playoff appearance with the Clippers, he averaged 30.4 points per game over 11 contests in 2021. To start the 2023 NBA Playoffs, Leonard will post a similar scoring output in being the the high-scorer in Game 1 against the Suns.

Ivica Zubac outplays the Phoenix Suns’ DeAndre Ayton

DeAndre Ayton was highly touted coming into the NBA as potentially the next great big man in the league. Ayton has certainly been solid for the Suns in five career seasons, this year averaging a double-double per game with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Although he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations, Suns fans would be surprised if he wasn’t the best big man in this series. However, at least for Game 1, that title is going to belong to the Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac.

Zubac has been the consummate professional in his eight years in the NBA, all eight being spent in Los Angeles for either the Lakers or the Clippers. Zubac had arguably his most productive year of his career in 2022-2023, averaging his most minutes ever at 28.5 and posting career-highs with 10.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He was a steady presence all season long for the Clippers, and he will prove his worth once again in Game 1 vs. the Suns.

Not only will Zubac outplay Ayton, but he will outscore him as well. He will dominate the Suns’ big man on the glass all game long, scooping up second and third chance buckets. The rebounds will lead to points, and overall a better game both stat related and eye-test related. After Game 1, it will be clear that Ivica Zubac played much better than DeAndre Ayton.

Eric Gordon hits five threes for the Clippers

Eric Gordon was acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers midseason from the Houston Rockets. Ever since his arrival in Los Angeles, Gordon has played well in 25 minutes per game, providing his three-point prowess to the tune of 42.3%. Although, he has only had one big three-point outing as a Clipper, hitting five threes on his way to 22 points during a game against the Chicago Bulls on March 27. In Game 1 against the Suns, Gordon will put forth a similar outing, draining at least five shots from long range.

Gordon has made a career out of shooting the three-point ball, although he differentiates himself from many shooters in the game. He has the ability to not only catch and shoot, but shoot off the dribble as well. This has given him serious longevity in a so far 16-year career. He will continue to show his versatility in Game 1 against the Suns, and he will once again be doing it both catch and shoot style, and off the dribble. Gordon will hit at least five threes to start the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.

The post 3 Clippers bold predictions for Game 1 vs. Suns appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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