Western Conference Finals 2020-21 X-Factors
The Western Conference Finals are now in full swing. The Phoenix Suns took game one from the Los Angeles Clippers behind Devin Booker‘s first career triple-double. Booker was able to lead the Suns to a 120-114 win, but as the Clippers have demonstrated throughout their playoff run, a game one win does not guarantee a series win. Both squads are battling without their best player. Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely with an ACL injury and Chris Paul is in health and safety protocols. As a result, the door is open for other players from each supporting cast to step up and carve out a nice niche in these conference finals. In other words, there is going to be one x-factor from each team who will be a major difference-maker in this series. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the two x-factors in this year’s Western Conference Finals.
X-Factors for Each Western Conference Finals Team
X-Factor for Phoenix
The Phoenix Suns have been a dark-horse candidate to make the NBA Finals for a while now. While Booker and Paul have gotten the lion’s share of the credit, the third part of the trio has been somewhat overlooked throughout their postseason run. That would be the center, Deandre Ayton. This series is basically begging for Ayton to take over and make himself a household name. The Los Angeles Clippers do not have great rim protection, especially with Serge Ibaka hurt, so this leaves the door open for Ayton to operate in the paint. Plus, he is also one of the more underrated paint defenders, so he should be able to solidify the paint on the defensive end for the Suns in this series.
Devin Booker could cool off if Paul George guards him in the series, but the Clippers do not have a star post player who can equal Ayton’s production. Ayton had himself a solid series against Denver despite having to guard the league MVP, Nikola Jokic. He put up 14.3 points on 61.0 percent shooting and 10.5 rebounds per game. If Ayton can keep up this momentum, then Ayton will be one of the key x-factors in these Western Conference Finals.
X-Factor for Los Angeles
With Kawhi out for the rest of the playoffs, Paul George is going to become the focal point for the Clippers’ offense. As a result, the Suns are going to throw everything at PG and force the supporting cast of L.A.’s to beat them. Insert Reggie Jackson. Jackson has been a polarizing guard. Some have criticized him for his shot selection throughout his career. However, his ability to score and create his own shot is also beneficial, so it’s a double-edged sword.
Jackson has already been an x-factor for the Clippers throughout these whole playoffs. He will be counted on just as much, if not more, in this round. His firepower was able to match Jordan Clarkson‘s output last round as Jackson tallied 18.0 points on 58.8 percent shooting, 50.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and four assists per game. With how hot Booker has been, the Clippers are going to need someone outside of George on the perimeter to match the Suns’ scoring output. With all of this in mind, Deandre Ayton and Reggie Jackson are the x-factors in these Western Conference Finals.
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