Suns’ 1st-round playoff matchup set vs. Clippers in 2021 rematch

Apr 9, 2023, 2:58 PM | Updated: 4:24 pm

The Phoenix Suns now know who they will play in the first round of the playoffs. A 119-114 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday meant Phoenix will face the Clippers in the first round next starting weekend.

Phoenix’s win on Tuesday over the San Antonio Spurs clinched its spot as the fourth seed in the Western Conference with three games remaining in the regular season. The Suns will hold home court in the series and host Game 1 on either Saturday or Sunday, with the schedule to be determined.

The Clippers needed a win on Sunday to clinch the No. 5 seed, and a loss could have dropped L.A. into the play-in tournament. Had the Suns defeated the Clippers, Phoenix would have matched up with the Golden State Warriors to start the playoffs.

A showdown with Los Angeles is a rematch of the 2021 Western Conference Finals that the Suns won in six games to advance to the NBA Finals. A handful of players from each team return but the big question is if the Clippers’ MVP of that series will be healthy enough to play in it.

Paul George injured his knee on March 21, and no timetable has been given on his return. George was absolutely sensational in that series two years ago, averaging 28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 42.3% from the field. He had to carry Los Angeles due to the absence of Kawhi Leonard, and now the roles could potentially be reversed with Leonard having to lead the Clippers against the Suns in the postseason.

The playoff series will mark the first for Phoenix with Kevin Durant. The Suns weren’t able to get a full acclimation process for Durant after he sprained his left ankle in pregame warmups on March 8 and missed 10 games. Entering play on Sunday, the Suns were 8-0 with Durant.

Phoenix has a record of 45-37 in an eventful regular season.

It started without Jae Crowder, who agreed with the team to stay home until the two sides found a new home for him in a trade. Eight games into Cam Johnson taking the starting power forward spot, he tore his meniscus, starting an injury-riddled stretch that maintained the rest of the way.

A year after winning 64 games and failing to lose more than two games in a row, Phoenix went on losing streaks of five, three and six, plus three more separate three-game skids over the course of the regular season. All of these occurred, of course, when Phoenix was missing at least one key player and usually more.

The night before the trade deadline on Feb. 8, Phoenix acquired Durant from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Johnson, Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks and a pick swap. Durant was recovering from an injury and made his debut three weeks later, only to sprain that left ankle.

Torrey Craig, Damion Lee and Josh Okogie were the lone three Suns to play in at least 70 games.

Western Conference standings

Team Record
1. Nuggets 53-29
2. Grizzlies 51-31
3. Kings 48-34
4. Suns 45-37
5. Clippers 44-38
6. Warriors 44-38
7. Lakers 43-39
8. Timberwolves 42-40
9. Pelicans 42-40
10. Thunder 40-42
11. Mavericks 38-44
12. Jazz 37-45
13. Trail Blazers 33-49
14. Rockets 22-60
15. Spurs 22-60

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