The Phoenix Suns must make these three key adjustments to beat the LA Clippers in Game 4.
Phoenix took a commanding 2-0 lead after winning the first two at home. However, the Suns were out of sorts offensively and dropped Game 3 at Staples Center to a Clippers team that did not see its best player Kawhi Leonard even play. Regardless of whether Leonard returns to the lineup, Phoenix needs to make these three changes to have any hope of going up 3-1 in this best-of-seven series.
Here is what must be rectified by Monty Williams’ team if the Suns want to win Game 4 Saturday.
3. Phoenix needs to attack the paint relentlessly with Deandre Ayton
What had been a plus throughout much of the 2021 NBA Playoffs was a negative for the Suns in Game 3 vs. the Clippers on Thursday night. Third-year pro and former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton was really shining in his first-ever trip to the postseason. However, he posted a miserable plus/minus of minus-25 in the Suns’ 14-point road loss to the Clippers. That cannot happen.
To make things even worse, his Clippers counterpart in center Ivica Zubac was +28 on the evening. We are talking about a 53-point range from the best player on the court in Game 3 to the worst, at the same starting position, nonetheless. With shooting guard Devin Booker dealing with a busted nose, the Suns have to be able to lean on theoretically their third-best player to ignite the offense.
Ayton did lead all Suns in scoring on Thursday with 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting, but he only attempted one free throw and missed it. Though 9 rebounds and 2 blocks show up decently on the stat sheet, Zubac crushed him on the glass with 16 boards to go along with his 15 points in his double-double. It will not be easy, but the Suns need to use Ayton on the attack to beat Zubac.
Even if Ayton approaches 25 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4, that alone may not be enough to win.