The Phoenix Suns host the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night with a chance to move into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Tip-off for Game 5 is slated for 10:00 p.m. ET at Footprint Center where the Suns are -12- point favorites. The total is 224.5. Phoenix leads the series 3-1 against an LA team that will be without its top two players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Los Angeles Clippers (45-41, 1-3, #5 seed)

George (knee) hasn’t played in the series and for the third straight game, the Clippers will be without Leonard. The five-time All-Star and two-time NBA finals MVP has been ruled out (again) due to a sprained right knee. It’s the same injury that has sidelined George since March 21. Leonard hurt his knee in Game 1 and played through it in Game 2, but his condition worsened.

Leonard averaged 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists in the first two games against the Suns:

Phoenix Suns (48-38, 3-1, #4 seed)

When the Suns made the trade for Kevin Durant at the deadline, they were in hopes he would be the final piece of the puzzle. And outside of an ankle injury before his first home game with his new team, Durant’s arrival from the Brooklyn Nets in February has been everything the Suns had hoped for.

Phoenix was 8-0 in the regular season with Durant on the court. They’ve won three more times in four tries during the playoffs including Sunday’s 112-100 victory in Game 4. Durant had 31 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals:

Devin Booker added 30 points with nine rebounds:

Question marks abound for the Clippers

While the Suns appear headed for a spot in the second round, likely against the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers’ path is “muddied”. Leonard’s knee injury has conjured up memories of the 2021 playoffs. That year he missed the last eight games with a knee injury and the Clippers were eliminated by the Suns. He ended up needing ACL surgery that cost him the entire 2021-22 campaign.

Without Leonard and Paul George out, Russell Westbrook has stepped up. He scored 37 points on 17-of-29 shooting in Game 4 and is averaging 31.7 points over the last three games, while also adding 7.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds.  After a rough season with the Lakers, Westbrook was traded to the Utah Jazz, was waived and then signed by the Clippers. He can only hope that he’s restored his image in his short time with his new team.

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