On Thursday night, the Phoenix Suns travel to Crypto.com Arena for Game 3 of their first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. With both teams tied 1-1 so far in this matchup, Game 3 could prove crucial: Phoenix may regain home-court advantage, or Los Angeles could guarantee at least a Game 6 at their respective venues.
The question for Ty Lue: Does he trust whoever the Suns’ fifth starter is to miss a few more open threes now that the series has shifted to Los Angeles?
Torrey Craig has been the go-to guy for Monty Williams so far, and he’s answered the call admirably, with seven threes in 12 attempts over the first two games. The books still don’t trust him. His points prop sits at 8.5 for Game 3.
If those Craig threes go by the wayside, the Clippers will be in a good position to focus their full attention on defending the midrange. But this brings more questions: Does Lue embrace a five-out approach to blitz those midrange jumpers? Twitter certainly wants Robert Covington to be dusted off and used as part of said five-out lineup, but one of the Clippers’ biggest advantages has been on the offensive glass, where they have a massive 27-13 edge thus far.
This happens when you’re the underdog with a less talented roster. Every decision is a give and take, and it’s just trusting the underdog coach to find the right decisions on the margins where small percentages could add up to a slight upset.
I trust Lue enormously, as he’s among the most creative coaches in the NBA.
The Suns assembled three of the best midrange shooters of this generation and built their entire offense around them. Out of players to attempt at least 200 midrange shots this season, three were among the seven with the highest field goal percentage – Kevin Durant (56.0%) led all league scorers, while Devin Booker finished fourth (49.5%) and Chris Paul placed seventh (47%).
Since Durant joined, no team has taken more midrange shots per game, but in this series against the Clippers, it has reached near-comical proportions. The Suns guard Devin Booker attempted just 21.5 threes per game compared to 28.9 attempts per game during the regular season; additionally, they are taking just 17 per cent of their shots at the rim, close to 17 per cent in the regular season play by Warriors (17.7 per cent Warriors).
Game 2 proved that their shooting percentage wasn’t an issue as they shot an impressive 58.8 per cent from the field on their way to scoring 123 points and taking home a 14-point victory. So is this sustainable?
Due to this immense talent gap, my preferred strategy for Game 3 is the under.
As Lue is one of the mastermind coaches (Williams isn’t quite up there with him yet, but close), I like the under. Lue will use all his skillful mind manipulation techniques to slow Phoenix down.
This total was well under in Game 1, and while it eventually cleared in Game 2 due to Phoenix’s impressive 58.8% shooting percentage – something I don’t anticipate holding up well away from home.
I will bet the Clippers to cover the three points in this game, but betting the under is still the best bet.
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