Last night the Suns lost its first game in nearly month, falling to the Clippers 106-92. They still lead the series 2-1, yet some fans and experts are concerned.
Charles Barkley doesn’t fall into that category.
“The only thing the Clippers did was stave off being swept,” Barkley chuckled on The Brad Cesmat Show. “I think the Suns are in great shape. I think last night was predictable… You had a situation where Chris [Paul] hadn’t played basketball in two weeks. And then you got Book playing out there with one eye, I’ve played in one of those masks in there and they suck because you can’t see sideways.”
In Game 3, Paul and Booker combined for 30 points on 10-40 shooting. The opposite side of the coin is that the Suns are only up 2-1 due to a miraculous alley-oop and some missed free throws by Paul George. After a 40 point triple double in Game 1, Booker hasn’t looked the same with Patrick Beverley guarding him more.
“The only difference is Chris not being there,” Barkley said as a counterargument. “If he were there in games one and two they’d still be up 2-0 and he’d be in shape.”
Rest of series
Another factor in the loss last night was Cam Payne going down with an ankle injury. There’s no update about his status for Game 4 and moving forward. The electric backup point guard dropped 29 points in Game 2 with CP3 out.
“It’s huge, it’s huge, it’s really huge because he has played fantastic,” Barkley said about Payne. “And he’s played fantastic with him and Chris [Paul] out there together. Anytime you lose a guy like that it’s going to hurt. The only thing they gotta worry about is trying to get him back for Game 5.”
The No. 2 seed Suns have home court advantage, so Barkely isn’t worried about the outcome of Game 4.
“All the pressure is on the team that is down,” Barkley said. “It’s up to the Clippers to win their home games.”
Phoenix only needs two wins to reach the NBA finals, with Game 5 and Game 7 (if needed), being at home. Despite the regular season success of this team, Barkley says he didn’t see this coming.
“I thought they’d beat the Lakers because the Lakers were not healthy,” Barkley said. “I was surprised by the Denver sweep. I think everybody is surprised by that sweep.”
The confidence of the entire roster is setting this team apart from the rest. However, the biggest question mark entering the postseason was Deandre Ayton. He’s answered the call, leading the playoffs in shooting percentage. All while averaging 16.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds.
“He has played fabulous,” Barkley said about Ayton. “Going forward with Book and Ayton you have to feel really good if you’re a Suns fan for the next three years.”