ESPN’s Kevin Pelton breaks down the Suns vs. Clippers defensive matchups

Jun 26, 2021, 11:01 AM | Updated: 4:18 pm
JUNE 24: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns brings the ball up court against Patrick Beverley #21 ...
JUNE 24: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns brings the ball up court against Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers during the second half of game three of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center on June 24, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

After winning nine straight playoff games, the Phoenix Suns lost to the Clippers on Thursday. The loss was Phoenix’s first since falling to the Lakers in their first round matchup on May 27.

The Los Angeles Clippers took Game 3 from Phoenix and held the Suns to under 100 points in their victory, 106-92.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton stopped by 98.7 FM’s Burns & Gambo on Friday to break down the Suns vs. Clippers defensive matchups.

Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley has spent most of the series defending Devin Booker.

In Game 3, Booker didn’t look like his normal self as he went five of 21 from the field and went one of seven from beyond the arc. Booker ended the night with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss.

“[Beverley] is making life more difficult,” Pelton told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “It’s definitely a difference from the Denver series where those guards weren’t able to put much pressure on him at the point of attack.”

Pelton added that Beverly has a history with getting into foul trouble early on in games and that the Suns should expose that weakness in Game 4.

“If you’re Phoenix, I think that would be high on my list of to-do’s for Game 4, is can we pick up two early fouls on Patrick Beverley,” Pelton said.

Phoenix was held to under 100 points on Thursday since Game 3 on May 27 between the Lakers in the first round series. The Suns shot 38.9% and went 35-90 from field on Thursday, however the ESPN writer believes that Booker and company will get those shots to go in as the Western Conference Finals continues.

“There’s still only so much you can do defensively,” Pelton said. “I think to control how well offenses are shooting the three and we’ve seen Phoenix shoot it well all season long so I’d expect those to eventually fall.”

Another key matchup in the conference finals has been Deandre Ayton vs. the Clippers big men.

In his first postseason run, Ayton has been averaging 16.5 points and 10.6 rebounds while shooting 72%. The Suns’ big man has forced the Clippers to go big in their lineup and insert Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus Cousins into their rotation.

“The [Clippers] best advantage against a lot of other teams is to go five out like they did in the second round against Utah. In the first round against Dallas and stretch teams out. They can’t do that in this series in the same way at least with the starters because they fear what Ayton is going to do to those small lineups,” Pelton told 98.7 FM’s Burns & Gambo.

The ESPN writer added that the Clipper’s decision to ditch their small-ball lineup may deteriorate Ayton’s overall numbers, but could bode well for Phoenix’s wing players and create opportunities on the perimeter.

Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals tips off at 6 p.m. at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Catch all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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