PHOENIX — Kawhi Leonard did everything he could to keep the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2, but Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns came out on top.
Behind Devin Booker’s 38 points and nine assists, the Suns defeated the Clippers, 123-109. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Chris Paul also found his touch on Tuesday, scoring 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting while dishing eight assists.
As a team, Phoenix did what they do best: get to the mid-range area and pull-up for tough 2-pointers over the defense. In Game 2, the Suns shot 32-of-50 on mid-range shot attempts. Neither Chris Paul nor Kevin Durant made a 3-pointer or a layup, with all 18 of their made shots coming in the mid-range.
“That’s what they do,” Clippers star Kawhi Leonard told members of the media after the win. “They’re talented basketball players, and it’s expected for them to make those shots. They like to shoot them.”
Sunday’s Game 1 saw a similar shot profile for the Suns, who went 24-of-52 from all the mid-range spots.
“I think we’re doing a good job,” Leonard added. “We know what’s going to happen coming into the game. I feel like we executed most of the sets when they did come and double. Yeah, so that’s what I think about it.”
Tyronn Lue and the Clippers are going to continue sending multiple defensive coverages on Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul. A steady diet of one type of defensive look will be easy for the Suns stars to exploit eventually, so continuously mucking up the game is the only way this team can succeed defensively.
“I think you’ve just got to continue mixing coverages up, not letting them get comfortable,” said Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue. “In the first half I thought we did a good job with our bigs being up, and then Ayton, he kind of got going, he made like four or five of ’em, and then we backed up, then Book and KD and CP got going. So just mixing up our coverages, try to keep them off-balance. I thought our zone was pretty good for us at times, but just got to keep trying to keep them off-balance as best as possible.”
The Clippers exit Phoenix and now return home to focus on Games 3 and 4 back in Los Angeles. With two home games and a chance to go up 3-1 heading back for a Game 5 in Phoenix, all the attention shifts to LA to see whether they can win two games in a row at home.
“We’re in a good place,” Leonard said. “We split on the road, so we’ve got to go back home and try to protect our home court.”
“I feel good,” added Tyronn Lue. “I feel good where we’re at. Our guys are going to keep competing and keep scrapping. We think we can win this series, and so that’s the biggest thing. 100 percent of the battle is believing, and we believe we can do it. Like I said, clean up some things and do some things a little different, but like I said, I like where we’re at, and I like what we did tonight.”
Tyronn Lue on the Clippers being tied 1-1:
“I feel good. I feel good with where we’re at. Our guys are gonna keep competing and scrapping. We think we can win this series. 100% of the battle is believing. Clean up some things… I like where we’re at.”pic.twitter.com/5LuFAcNa0m
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 19, 2023
Another reason the Clippers remain optimistic regarding their chances in this series is they’ve had a chance to go up 2-0 with relatively average bench production. Norman Powell, Bones Hyland, and Terance Mann haven’t had their signature games off the bench through two games.
Additionally, the team still hasn’t found its rhythm from beyond the arc just yet, shooting a combined 21-of-61 (34 percent) from deep through the first two games. Kawhi Leonard is 6-of-10 from 3-point range in the series and Eric Gordon is 7-of-16. Those two have made 13 of the Clippers’ 21 triples in the series so far.
Nicolas Batum is 1-of-7 from the field, all on 3-pointers. Hyland and Powell are 2-of-14 from 3-point land in the series. Meanwhile, Suns forward Torrey Craig, who was inserted into the starting lineup for this series in place of Josh Okogie, has averaged 19.5 points on 15-of-21 shooting (71.4 percent) from the field and 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) from distance.
Through two games, both teams have a right to feel like they can play significantly better and feel optimistic about their chances.
Game 3 will be Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. PT on TNT and Bally Sports.
The post Kawhi Leonard reacts to Clippers’ Game 2 loss vs. Kevin Durant, Suns appeared first on ClutchPoints.