No Kawhi Leonard. No Serge Ibaka. No Ivica Zubac. Did you really doubt this Clippers team would come through in such a desperate situation?
Marcus Morris hit 6-of-7 shot attempts in the first quarter and Reggie “Big Government” Jackson had hit two massive 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter as part of a 23 point outing, but Monday night was about the performance of Paul George. The disrespected All-Star quieted his critics with a masterful outing, hitting 15-of-20 shot attempts and finishing with a 41-point, 13-rebound and six-assist night. He -- just like this Clippers team -- thrives when facing adversity and we now have a series with some life because of it.
Now, the Phoenix Suns have some real questions to answer about themselves as they head back on the road for Game 6 at Staples Center. Despite holding a 3-2 series lead, Phoenix has a -3.4 net rating in the five games against Los Angeles and its offense has been limited to just 106.8 points per 100 possessions. Their biggest weapon, literally, in DeAndre Ayton has been rendered useless. The Suns have been outscored by 42 points in this series when Ayton is on the floor, the worst plus/minus of any Suns player and four points worse than Jae Crowder (-38). The third-worst on the team? Chris Paul (-27) who attempted to flop his way into an NBA Finals berth on Monday night.
So where do the Suns go from here? Their biggest mismatch is anything but, and their lead guard has been inefficient and ineffective. The market has been somewhat strong on Phoenix and that has resulted in three covers for the Clippers in this series. The market showed its hesitancy to grade Los Angeles properly by opening the line for Game 6 at PK at almost every shop. The Clippers should be favored in this game, there is no question about that in my mind.
Now, let's turn to Game 4 of an exciting Eastern Conference Finals series.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Milwaukee Bucks (-6, 223) at Atlanta Hawks
How healthy is Trae Young? That is the prevailing question for Game 4 on Tuesday night. If he is not effective enough to get to the painted area and take advantage of Milwaukee's drop coverage, then Atlanta has a problem. In the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Hawks’ offense was completely shut down, limited to just 0.773 points per possession as Young mostly played off-ball nursing the injury. Atlanta has already had trouble scoring efficiently in this series, averaging just 104.7 points per 100 possessions, and that is with Young fully operational for all quarters but one. What happens when he is limited by injury? That offense needs to be firing on all cylinders if it's going to match the Bucks’ offense, something the Hawks have been unable to do.
Milwaukee has had its way against Atlanta’s defense to this point in the series, averaging 118.6 points per 100 possessions through three games, but the real issue for the Hawks has been inside. The Bucks have totaled 96 attempts at the rim in this series in non-garbage time minutes, something that eliminates the entire fourth quarter of Game 2 of this series. Think about that: Nearly 100 attempts within four feet of the hoop in seven quarters of play. On those 96 attempts, the Bucks have shot 70% ... and therein lies the problem for Atlanta. The Hawks have no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the frontcourt of Milwaukee. That is not changing anytime soon in this series, and now they must keep up with that offensive output with Young on one leg.
If Young is indeed hampered, this offensive output will struggle even more and that could lead to a low-scoring affair. The market has moved toward the under for good reason here. The side is another story. At this current price, Milwaukee would be favored by about 11.5 points back home. That is a four-point bump on the Buck's power rating since the beginning of this series. Did Milwaukee get four points better over the course of the last three games?